The Moravia Florece Para la Vida project in Medellín, Colombia – an area that used to be a rubbish dump is now the focus of an art corridor and newly formed community garden and public space. The expansion of the corridor of art and memory together with the construction of the second greenhouse are part of the intervention carried out by the Mayor of Medellín in this area of the northwest of the city, which for years was a rubbish dump.
According to Gloria Alzate, Secretary of Environment, “The change in the environment must be accompanied by a social transformation, that is why we have accompanied the families in the transfer to other sites of the city and have strengthened social ties, as well as the creation of productive enterprises has been encouraged “.
The project, according to figures from the Ministry of the Environment, has benefited nearly 40,000 people who live in the neighborhood and its area of influence, since it has allowed the consolidation of small businesses, such as flower crops that are managed by women in the neighborhood. sector.
In the process, which began in 2013, there have been works of urban, landscape and environmental interventions in 35,000 square meters of the 72,000 corresponding to the old garbage dump of the city. In this space they have planted 3,600 square meters with 46 species of ornamental and floral plants.
Among the works carried out is the extension of 265 meters of the Corridor of Art and Memory, composed of 300 linear meters in which the inhabitants portrayed stories, characters and images of the neighborhood.
The construction of the second 1,000-square-meter greenhouse with capacity for 40,000 plants was also completed, as well as the installation of 39 fences with historical photographs of the sector and 14 sculptures by artists from three universities in the city.
“This has been a social and economic process, but also cultural because we change mentalities with art,” said Alzate.
The story begins with internal violence in Medellin during the 1970’s and ‘80s. Conflict involving guerrilla groups, military groups, and drug cartels led to the displacement of a large number of people. Many had been living in impacted rural areas, and moved to Medellin seeking security and the opportunity for a better life. These migrants began to build informal housing at the Moravia garbage dump, which eventually grew into the most densely populated community in Colombia.
Inhabitants survived through the recycling of the waste materials and the close transport links, like the old train station, but continued violence and an economic crisis only exacerbated the influx of migrants and high population density.During this time the sanitation and health standards of El Morro de Moravia were dire. In fact:
- 30% of the structures were deemed dangerous,
- 30% of the population were children, and
- There was an average of 4.8 inhabitants per room.
In 1983 the dump was moved to prevent the landfill from defining the future development of the area.
By 2006 Mayor Sergio Fajardo and Colombia’s Interior Ministry declared the situation in Morro de Moravia a “public disaster”. A government initiative had begun to transform the community by this time, and the former garbage dump was to be converted into a public space.
First, residents of the dump were evicted and relocated to safe areas, then they began the process of decontaminating the mountain and converting into public gardens. Next came a series of small urban projects, new dwellings, and the opening of an educational and cultural building.
All projects employ residents of the neighborhood, so the transformation can be the pride of those who live there. One stand-out project was a series of greenhouses atop the old garbage hill that employed single mothers from the community.
The goal for the project is “Moravia florece para la vida”, or that Moravia should “blossom into life”. The result of government projects and work by locals seems to indicate that Moravia is indeed blossoming, quite literally. Today, locals have planted more than 50,000 plants of 47 species.