POSTCARD FROM MEDELLIN No.2...'The Medellin Metaleros'

Today I took the Medellin Metro. Not so much as a crumpled chewing gum wrapper, let alone graffiti, and everyone is so polite. I’m not talking about normal politeness, but the kind of Wimbledon-ball-boy-talking-to Princess Michael smile, hands-behind-back politeness. People use the formal “usted” instead of “tú” even between husband and wife, and in restaurants waiters show embarrassing servitude. Then, I’ll step into the street and “Gringa slut” will shoot out from some car...
Lucille Marx

...My concerns about safety here are only very fleeting. I sometimes worry that a 'gringa' like me is just begging to be kidnapped by some guerrilla of paramilitary group or other, but then think how amazing it is actually that, despite my glaring blonde hair and smart foreign looks not one kidnapping offer has come my way, not even a mugging. Of course more people die in everyday personal vendettas in Medellin than by guerrilla kidnappings, and I am more likely to be a victim of a crime of passion. Resentments are sown easily, get infected very quickly, and can flare up at the slightest mood swing.

Once in the centre, I saw a sight I never thought I'd see in Colombia. A group of heavy-metal goth types hanging around on the steps of an officious-looking building. There was a boy with long black hair, in a black sweatshirt and sweat pants, who looks cross eyed. He was being caressed by a beautiful blonde girl, with black eye liner, a black choker, a short black skirt and tights.

Something made me approach them and ask them why they were not in church on a sunday morning in Medellin. “I don’t go to Church because there is nothing spiritual left in it,” said Valentin, the cross-eyed boy. “The Church makes money out of selling promises that it never has to keep because nobody can come back after they die and sue.”

The girl stroked his shoulder gently while he spoke, but he looked always up to the skies and I realized he was blind. He had his eyes shot out when he tried to prevent his motorbike from being stolen. He tells me he sees clearer now.

Slowly other black-eyed, drain-piped, long-haired yoof gathered round in curiosity. They bombarded me with questions about where I’m from, what I’m doing alone in Medellin, which places I’ve been too in the city, and just from a few names they quickly deduct who I’ve been hanging out with. They turned to each other knowingly and say, “Los Vallenateros.” They hate the music, the false romance and groomed respectability that goes with it. It harbours the city’s real violence.

“They spend the whole day plotting and threatening to kill each other and then dance Vallenato and feel they are the most sensitive, romantic people in the world,.” said Martin. He had shaved one side of his head, but the hair on the other falls down to his bum, a half-skinhead, half-metal schizophrenic punk hybrid. “They reckon if they get into the lovey-dovey and smoochy-moochy embrace, it will excuse and cleanse their aggression.”

“Yeah, and their Gallina girlfriends” said the beautiful blonde “those whores who paint themselves so they look like clowns, they encourage the aggression.”

A concert was about to begin and the beautiful blonde lead Valentin into a long seedy corridor which spills into a hall filled with long hairs. Through the darkness a single spotlight shone on a small stage on which several spotty grim-reapers appear and dive into a guitar screeching and drum-banging contest.

In front of the stage, heads flopped, hair flew and death-dressed bodies flung themselves around. Several fans were standing with one foot against the stage, playing invisible guitars and screwing up their faces in ecstasy. The girls take a more measured approach, standing on the fringes with arms folded, frowning in concentration. No vallenato embracing.

The way they shouted and screamed during the concert you would think a hundred murders have taken place. But when the lights came on, the audience looked refreshed and glowing from the therapy.

“They bring you up to hide your feelings, because they are scared for you.” said Martin, in the Rocky Horror interval. “They are scared that if you are too outspoken it will get you into trouble.”

“They should teach us to show our anger when we are young, to liberate our hate” added the beautiful blonde. “Then there would be less violence in Medellin.”

Martin’s hair may be schizophrenic, but the real schizophrenia, he said, lies in the narco-mainstream. “We are the only ones who confront reality. They just want to cover up the violence with false romance, and let people continue getting their heads blown off for saying the wrong thing. The Vallenatos sing about love, but the Vallenateros hold no respect for life.”

As if hearing his cue, the lead grim-reaper took the stage and began slurring the mournful moan of a Metal ballad. It is a rendition, Valentin tells me, of a Norwegian hardcore-punk composition. His face has turned to misery, a defeated man standing on the edge of death, not in the gasping-heartache way of the Vallenateros, but in a droning melancholic Nordic way. In heavily Spanish-accented Norwegian English he wrenches earnestly over the pain and pointlessness of life.

After the concert, the devil worshippers pull out the tables and chairs to begin a candlelit deliberation on moral issues. It is like an underground meeting of the St. Petersberg opposition. Not that they are planning rebellion. There is far too much of that already in Colombia. No, they will discuss the art of living through reflection and moderation.

“Here you are considered violent if you tell the truth,” Martín begins, but if you pay someone to kill your enemy in secret, that is normal.”

“Nobody has self-control,” pleads a girl with short spiky hair. “The only reasoning our city knows is rationalizing actions of impulse. We do not know how to think before acting”

“It is up to us to lead the way,” answers a sunken-cheeked boy with charcol smudged eyes. “We must rise above the others and exercise self control and consideration.”

“Yeh, we have to be strong in our convictions. I don’t care if nobody listens to my shout.” says Martin “I know that it is the truth and I did it for me.”