The Metamorphosis of Barranquilla
As each day passes, I find myself truly amazed at how much Barranquilla has changed over the past few years. When I arrived in this city almost 9 years ago, it wasn’t one of the popular tourist destinations you would think of when you visit Colombia. It was a very industrial city with many factories, one museum, and a colorful carnival once a year. People would prefer going to the malls, rather than parks, museums or historical places. But the longer you live in this city, the more you notice how rapidly Barranquilla has changed and metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly.
When you live and adapt as a foreigner to the daily routine of the new city, you realize how different it is from anything else you have seen before. Many things affect the way people live here. The sun rises very early, at 5-6 am, so the working day starts early. Likewise, the sun sets early and it gets dark very fast, and it looks like it is already late night when it is only 7 pm. It influences the way people start and finish their day.
Another thing that dictates your lifestyle here is the weather. No one likes to be outside when it is sunny and hot all day. You will not be able to enjoy a day in the park, especially if there is no breeze. And if the parks don’t have shade, a place to sit, a small shop with refreshing juices or water, you will not want to spend a minute more there, but look for a place with a lifesaving AC. Considering all those factors, it is quite understandable why people choose a mall over a park.
But in the end, the whole culture of Barranquilla has changed. The local government has now implemented projects of ameliorating old and unused parks. I was very excited when I saw the first changes. The parks became greener, with more trees and flowers. Basketball, soccer, volleyball, and tennis courts were built. It became a place where you can enjoy having a picnic on the grass, celebrating a birthday, walking your dog, or teaching your kids how to ride a bike.
The parks have become one of the main leisure destinations. With the rapid growth of the parks, it became necessary to keep up with the new appearance of the city. New projects have been springing up like mushrooms. One of the most attractive now is Gran Malecon del Rio on via 40, which is still not entirely finished, and so we are expecting more entertainment to come. More and more people go there to spend time, jog, ride bikes, play sports, and eat in a restaurant. The more infrastructure and commodities it has, the faster it can become a place of interest.
There are many new places in the city to go. Just recently, the city constructed a new event center, Puerta de Oro, right next to Malecon for concerts and expositions. Buenavista Boulevard Park has changed beyond recognition now too, and is always full of people.
Plaza de la Paz also deserves mention, as it has become safer and bigger. Many places such as the Olympic Pool, the BMX track, and Estadio Moderno, were built for the Central American and Caribbean Games. Included are the new tennis courts, and also the new Edgar Renteria baseball stadium which has revived the sport in the city.
Also, step by step (or street by street), the region is constructing canal systems to eliminate the famous “arroyos.” More trees have appeared everywhere to give people shade, and we now have two new monuments; Ventana al Mundo and La Ventana de Campeones, each of which have became the symbol of Barranquilla at once.
Highways are getting spacious and better, including the newest Circunvalar de la Prosperidad connecting Malambo, Galapa, and Puerto Colombia. Also we now have the new Pumarejo bridge, which was built to allow transport and cruise ships to pass. We’re even renewing the airport to be more modern and practical.
I am very proud to have witnessed all these changes. It’s nice to see people going out and spending more time outside despite the weather. It would be great to see more cultural places restored too. Amira de la Rosa, Bellas Artes, and Centro Historico are just three examples. Malecon Turistico also needs improvement, as does Bocas de Ceniza. Hopefully, soon we will also see a reduction of the pollution and the discharge of dirty water into the Magdalena River.
The city is blooming and it has nowhere to go but up. I can’t wait to see what Barranquilla will become in the near future as new creative projects come along to enhance it’s development.
Special thanks to Guillermo Rodríguez for allowing us to use his fabulous photography!