views updated May 23 2018


Medellín is the second largest city in Colombia and capital of the department of Antioquia. In 2005 the city's population was 2,223,660. Medellín is located in the fertile valley of Aburrá in the Central Cordillera at an altitude of 5,000 feet. The valley already had some 3,000 inhabitants when the city was formally established in 1675. By 1787 nearly 17,000 people lived in the territory under the city's jurisdiction.

After independence, Medellín became the seat of government for the state (later department) of Antioquia. The continued importance of gold mining in Antioquia coupled with the subsequent rise of coffee production allowed Medellín to emerge as Colombia's industrial center in the early twentieth century. Even earlier, local foundries were producing machinery for the processing of coffee and other agricultural products. After 1900 Medellín and its environs were home to several modern textile mills, among the most notable of which were the Compañía Antioqueña de Tejidos (1902) and the Compañía Colombiana de Tejidos (1907). Known as Coltejer, the latter became the largest textile enterprise in Colombia, employing 8,500 people in four plants in and around Medellín by 1967. The cut-flower industry around Medellín has grown in recent years.

In the late twentieth century, Medellín gained notoriety as the headquarters of a violent narcotics cartel. Conflict among drug traffickers and between them and the authorities cost thousands of lives as the number of violent deaths in Medellín rose from 730 in 1980 to 5,300 in 1990, with 4,000 still in 2000. Colombian and international efforts led to the dissolution of the Medellín cartel. Although drug traffickers remain active, paisas (residents) have witnessed a reduction in criminal and political violence through governmental measures. In 1995 the city unveiled an elevated metro system.

See alsoCoffee Industry; Drugs and Drug Trade.


Ann Twinam, "Enterprise and Elites in Eighteenth-Century Medellín," in Hispanic American Historical Review 59 (1979): 444-475.

Jorge Restrepo Uribe and Luz Posada De Grieff, Medellín: Su origen, progreso y desarrollo (1981).

Alma Guillermoprieto, "Letter from Medellín," in The New Yorker, 22 April 1991, pp. 96-109.

Additional Bibliography

Botero Herrera, Fernando. Estado, nación y provincia de Antioquia: Guerras civiles e invención de la región 1829–1863. Medellín, Colombia: Hombre Nuevo Editores, 2003.

Farnsworth-Alvear, Ann. Dulcinea in the Factory: Myths, Morals, Men, and Women in Colombia's Industrial Experiment, 1905–1960. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

Jaramillo Mejía, William; Luis Enrique Rodríguez Baquero; Andrés Roncancio Parra; and Jorge Tomás Uribe Angel. Nobles, blancos y mestizos en la villa de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Medellín: Probanzas de nobleza, familia y mestizaje del cabildo, 1674–1812. Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura Hispánica, 1998.

Londoño-Vega, Patricia. Religion, Culture, and Society in Colombia: Medellín and Antioquia, 1850–1930. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Riaño Alcalá, Pilar. Dwellers of Memory: Youth and Violence in Medellín, Colombia. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2006.

Roldán, Mary. Blood and Fire: La Violencia in Antioquia, Colombia, 1946–1953. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

Ruiz Gómez, Darío. Medellín: Diario de ciudad. Medellín, Colombia: Editorial Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, 2005.

                                           Helen Delpar


views updated May 14 2018

Medellín City in nw central Colombia; capital of Antioquia department and the second-largest city in Colombia. Founded in the early 17th century by Spainish refugees, it became the cemtre of Colombia's illegal cocaine trade. The surrounding region has gold and silver mines. Industries: food processing, coffee, chemicals, steel. Pop. (2001) 2,026,789.


views updated May 29 2018


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