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How To Visit Comuna 13 – History And Street Art In Medellin


by Patience Ledbetter



Welcome to Comuna 13, an iconic neighborhood nestled in the heart of Medellin, Colombia. This vibrant community has a rich history and is renowned for its stunning street art. Visiting Comuna 13 is not only a chance to witness the artistic beauty that adorns its walls but also an opportunity to learn about the resilience and transformation of a neighborhood that was once plagued by violence and crime.


Comuna 13, also known as San Javier, is located on the hillsides of the city, offering breathtaking views of Medellin’s skyline. It was once considered one of the most dangerous areas in the world, notorious for its involvement in the drug trade and being a stronghold for armed groups. However, over the past decade, Comuna 13 has undergone a remarkable transformation, becoming a symbol of hope and community empowerment.


This transformation was primarily driven by the residents themselves, who united to reclaim their neighborhood from violence and poverty. The government also played a crucial role in supporting social projects and implementing infrastructure improvements in Comuna 13. Today, the neighborhood is a testament to the power of community resilience and the potential for positive change.


One of the most striking aspects of Comuna 13 is its vibrant street art. The walls of the neighborhood are adorned with colorful murals, depicting stories of resilience, hope, and the history of the community. These murals not only beautify the neighborhood but also serve as a reminder of the challenges that have been overcome and the strong spirit of the people.


If you’re planning a visit to Medellin, a trip to Comuna 13 should be at the top of your list. Not only will you have the opportunity to admire incredible street art, but you’ll also get a glimpse into the history and transformation of a neighborhood that has become an emblem of resilience and community revival. In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into the history of Comuna 13, explore its vibrant street art scene, provide tips on how to get there, and offer some advice for an unforgettable visit.


The History of Comuna 13

The history of Comuna 13 is deeply intertwined with the complex social and political landscape of Colombia. Originally established as a low-income housing area in the 1950s, the neighborhood soon faced numerous challenges that would shape its future.


During the 1980s and 1990s, Medellin, and particularly Comuna 13, became a stronghold for drug cartels, most notably the notorious Medellin Cartel led by Pablo Escobar. The neighborhood became plagued by violence, drug trafficking, and gang activity, making it one of the most dangerous areas in the city.


In an effort to combat the escalating violence, the government initiated a series of military operations in the early 2000s. These operations aimed to retake control of Comuna 13 from armed groups and drug traffickers. However, the operations led to clashes, human rights abuses, and displacement of many residents.


Despite the hardships, the people of Comuna 13 never lost hope. They began organizing themselves and advocating for social change. One of the key factors that contributed to the neighborhood’s transformation was the installation of the iconic outdoor escalators, which provided the residents with improved mobility and access to the city center. The escalators not only became a symbol of progress but also facilitated economic development in the community.


Furthermore, Comuna 13 started to receive support from the local government and various non-profit organizations. These initiatives focused on education, community empowerment, and social programs to uplift the residents and provide them with opportunities for a better future.


Today, Comuna 13 stands as a true testament to the power of community resilience. It has shed its violent past and become a hub for creativity, innovation, and social change. The neighborhood has become synonymous with positive transformation and acts as a shining example of how collective efforts can rebuild and revitalize a community.


Visiting Comuna 13 allows you to not only witness the incredible street art and colorful murals but also learn about the history of the neighborhood and the challenges it has overcome. The next section will delve into the remarkable transformation of Comuna 13 and its journey towards becoming a symbol of hope and progress.


The Transformation of Comuna 13

The transformation of Comuna 13 is a remarkable story of resilience, community empowerment, and positive change. From its turbulent past to becoming a symbol of hope, the neighborhood has undergone a significant transformation over the past decade.


The process of transformation began with the installation of the outdoor escalators in 2011. These escalators, which replaced the steep and narrow staircases that residents had to climb daily, not only improved mobility but also had a profound impact on the community. They became a vital lifeline, connecting Comuna 13 to the city center and opening up opportunities for economic development.


With improved infrastructure, Comuna 13 began to attract attention from artists, creatives, and social entrepreneurs who saw the neighborhood’s potential. They saw an opportunity to turn the grim concrete walls into a canvas for colorful expression and storytelling. Gradually, Comuna 13 started to embrace street art as a form of empowerment and community engagement.


The street art movement in Comuna 13 took off with the Commune Wall Project, a collaborative initiative that invited local and international artists to create murals and use their art to convey messages of hope, resilience, and unity. The walls that were once associated with violence and despair were transformed into vibrant works of art that inspired and uplifted the community.


As the street art scene blossomed, so did the community’s spirit. Local residents started to take pride in their neighborhood and actively participate in its transformation. Graffiti workshops, guided tours, and community events became common occurrences, allowing visitors to engage with the vibrant culture and stories behind the captivating murals.


Furthermore, the local government and various organizations invested in social programs and initiatives to promote education, artistic expression, and entrepreneurship within the community. These efforts aimed to provide the residents with opportunities to develop valuable skills, create sustainable businesses, and break free from the cycle of poverty and violence.


Today, Comuna 13 is a thriving neighborhood that showcases the power of art, resilience, and community collaboration. It has become a tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world who are eager to witness the stunning street art and learn about the neighborhood’s transformational journey.


But beyond the surface-level beauty of the murals, Comuna 13 is a living testament to the strength and determination of its people. The neighborhood serves as a reminder that through collective action, positive change is not only possible but achievable.


In the next section, we will explore the captivating street art of Comuna 13 and discover the stories and messages behind these incredible murals.


The Street Art of Comuna 13

The street art of Comuna 13 is a visual feast that tells the stories of its past, present, and the aspirations of its people. Vibrant and captivating, the murals adorning the walls of this neighborhood are not just beautiful works of art, but also powerful expressions of resilience and hope.


Comuna 13’s street art scene began to blossom around 2011 with the initiation of the Commune Wall Project, which invited both local and international artists to showcase their creativity on the neighborhood’s walls. Since then, the once-gray concrete structures have been transformed into a colorful outdoor gallery, attracting visitors from around the world.


As you wander through the graffiti-covered streets, you will encounter a diverse range of styles and themes. Many murals depict the neighborhood’s history, highlighting the challenges it has faced and the progress it has made. Others convey a sense of unity and pride, celebrating the community’s resilience and vitality.


One of the most iconic murals in Comuna 13 is the giant goldfish, known as El Pez Dorado. This masterpiece symbolizes the transformation of the neighborhood and the potential for growth and prosperity. Another prominent mural is the image of a young girl reaching for the stars, a representation of the dreams and aspirations of the community’s youth.


The murals in Comuna 13 go beyond aesthetics; they also carry profound messages. Many artworks address social and political issues, advocating for peace, equality, and justice. They serve as a visual commentary on the neighborhood’s past and its ongoing struggles, but also a reminder of the strength and resilience of its people.


What makes the street art in Comuna 13 truly special is the community’s involvement in its creation. The artists often collaborate with local residents, incorporating their stories and perspectives into the artwork. This collective effort creates a sense of ownership and pride within the community, fostering a deep connection between the art and the people it represents.


Visiting Comuna 13 is not just about admiring the murals; it’s about immersing yourself in the stories they tell. Taking a guided tour will enrich your experience, as knowledgeable local guides provide insight into the significance of each artwork and the context in which it was created. They can share stories of the neighborhood’s transformation and the impact that street art has had on the community.


As you explore the streets, you’ll also come across small art galleries and independent shops that showcase the works of local artists. This offers a unique opportunity to support the community directly by purchasing art or handmade crafts.


Comuna 13’s street art is a testament to the power of artistic expression and its ability to bring about positive change. It’s a living, breathing showcase of the neighborhood’s past, present, and future, inviting visitors to witness the transformation firsthand and become part of the story.


In the next section, we’ll explore how to get to Comuna 13 and provide practical tips for your visit.


How to Get to Comuna 13

Getting to Comuna 13 is relatively easy, and there are several transportation options available depending on your preference and budget. Here are the most common ways to reach this vibrant neighborhood:

  1. Public Transportation: Medellin has a well-developed metro system, and one of the easiest ways to get to Comuna 13 is by taking the Metro to the San Javier station. From there, you can take a short walk or hop on a local bus or taxi to reach the neighborhood. Keep in mind that the metro can get crowded during peak hours, so plan your visit accordingly.
  2. Escalators: As mentioned earlier, one of the distinct features of Comuna 13 is its outdoor escalators. If you prefer a more unique and scenic way to reach the neighborhood, you can take the escalators from the San Javier metro station. These escalators will transport you up the steep hillsides, providing stunning views along the way.
  3. Taxi or Uber: Taxis and Uber are widely available in Medellin, and you can simply hail a cab or book a ride through the app to reach Comuna 13. While this option offers convenience and flexibility, be sure to negotiate the fare in advance or ensure that the taxi meter is running to avoid any misunderstandings.
  4. Guided Tours: If you prefer a hassle-free experience and want to learn more about the neighborhood’s history and street art, joining a guided tour is an excellent option. Numerous tour operators offer guided tours of Comuna 13, which typically include transportation from central Medellin, a knowledgeable guide, and a comprehensive exploration of the neighborhood. These tours provide valuable insights and ensure that you don’t miss any significant murals or landmarks.

When planning your visit to Comuna 13, it’s essential to keep in mind that the neighborhood has become increasingly popular among tourists. To avoid crowds and have a more immersive experience, it’s advisable to visit during weekdays and arrive early in the morning. This will allow you to explore the streets at a leisurely pace and fully appreciate the stunning street art without too much hustle and bustle.


Lastly, it’s essential to be respectful when visiting Comuna 13. Remember that this is a community that has experienced significant challenges and transformations. Be mindful of your behavior, avoid touching the murals, and follow any guidelines provided by your tour guide or local authorities. By showing respect and appreciation, you contribute to maintaining the positive relationship between visitors and the community.


In the next section, we’ll provide some valuable tips to ensure that you make the most out of your visit to Comuna 13.


Tips for Visiting Comuna 13

Visiting Comuna 13 is an immersive experience that allows you to witness the vibrant street art and rich history of this remarkable neighborhood. To make the most of your visit and ensure a memorable experience, here are some valuable tips to keep in mind:

  1. Take a Guided Tour: Consider joining a guided tour of Comuna 13. A knowledgeable local guide can provide valuable insight into the neighborhood’s history, murals, and cultural significance. They can also navigate you through the streets and alleys, ensuring you don’t miss any important landmarks or hidden gems.
  2. Respect the Community: Remember that Comuna 13 is a living community with a complex history. Be respectful of the residents and their daily lives. Avoid intrusive photography or touching the murals. Engage with locals if appropriate and ask for permission before taking photographs of individuals.
  3. Plan Your Visit: Comuna 13 has become increasingly popular among tourists, especially on weekends and holidays. To avoid crowds, plan your visit during weekdays and arrive early in the morning. This will allow you to explore the neighborhood at a leisurely pace and fully appreciate the street art without too many distractions.
  4. Dress Comfortably: Exploring Comuna 13 involves walking up and down hills and navigating through narrow streets. Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers to adapt to the weather. Don’t forget to bring sun protection, as some areas may have less shade.
  5. Bring Cash: While some establishments in Comuna 13 may accept card payments, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand for small purchases or tips. ATMs may not be readily available in the neighborhood, so it’s best to withdraw money before your visit.
  6. Try Local Food and Drinks: Comuna 13 offers a variety of local food vendors and small eateries. Don’t hesitate to try some of the delicious street food or typical Colombian treats. Be adventurous and taste the flavors of the neighborhood.
  7. Engage with the Art: The murals in Comuna 13 tell powerful stories and convey meaningful messages. Take the time to appreciate the art and the stories behind each piece. Consider asking your guide or doing some research to understand the symbolism and significance of the murals you encounter.
  8. Support Local Artists and Entrepreneurs: Comuna 13 is home to talented artists, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs. Support the local community by purchasing artwork, handmade crafts, or souvenirs from independent shops and galleries. Your support contributes to the ongoing revitalization of the neighborhood.

By following these tips, you can have a rewarding and respectful experience while exploring Comuna 13. Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, appreciate the art, and embrace the resilience of the community.


To wrap up, visiting Comuna 13 will leave you with a deep appreciation for the power of art and community. Take the time to explore this neighborhood, listen to its stories, and witness its transformation firsthand.



A visit to Comuna 13 in Medellin, Colombia offers much more than just a chance to witness incredible street art; it provides a glimpse into the resilience and transformation of a neighborhood that has overcome immense challenges. Comuna 13 has shed its violent past and become a symbol of hope, community empowerment, and positive change.


The history of Comuna 13 is a testament to the strength and determination of its residents. Through collective action and community engagement, they have built a neighborhood that stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when communities come together to create a better future.


The vibrant street art that adorns the walls of Comuna 13 not only beautifies the neighborhood but also serves as a visual representation of its history, struggles, and triumphs. Every mural tells a story, conveying messages of resilience, hope, and unity. The art is a reflection of the community’s spirit and a celebration of its cultural heritage.


To fully appreciate Comuna 13, it is recommended to join a guided tour to gain a deeper understanding of the murals and their significance. Engaging with local guides and residents allows for a more meaningful and respectful experience, fostering a connection between visitors and the community.


Remember to plan your visit to avoid crowds, dress comfortably, and be respectful of the residents and their daily lives. Take the time to explore the streets, indulge in local food, and support the talented artists and entrepreneurs who call Comuna 13 home.


Visiting Comuna 13 is not just about admiring stunning murals; it is a chance to witness the power of art, resilience, and community. It is an opportunity to challenge preconceived notions and embrace the stories of transformation that define this remarkable neighborhood.


As you leave Comuna 13, you will carry with you not only memories of beautiful art but also inspiration from the community’s ability to rise above adversity. Comuna 13 stands as a beacon of hope, reminding us all of our collective potential to create positive change.


So, if you find yourself in Medellin, don’t miss the chance to explore Comuna 13. Discover the vibrant street art, immerse yourself in the history, and walk the streets that bear the marks of a community that has risen above its past to create a better future. Witness the transformation, embrace the spirit, and become part of the journey that is Comuna 13.