Early last week, I got a tip from Mike that Envigado was going to be the epicenter of a big fireworks display to ring in December.
I was already getting the impression that Christmas was a big deal in Medellin, but the night before December 1st holds no significance in the USA. The idea that last Tuesday night would be a big celebratory event was hard to comprehend.
I invited a paisa friend to join me, and we took a taxi from Poblado south to Envigado, and then up the mountainside toward a neighborhood neither of us were familiar with. Even the taxi driver had to ask for directions three or four times.
Eventually we arrived at a street filled with people. It was a residential area, with a small strip mall of bars and convenience stores. There was a noticeable police presence, and the occasional firework being lit off from kids within the crowd.
It was a street party, whereas in my mind, I expected a big open park or space, and some semblance of order (as is common in the USA for big fireworks displays).
We bought a few beers, and took in the scene, but I soon spotted the police interacting with a guy in the crowd. Smoke from the increasing amount of fireworks being lit off by people in the street started to drift up the hill we were on.
We walked around looking for some food, but there was little to choose from. Some of the revelers were wearing paper hats with a Christmas theme (think elves or Santa).
Then a very loud BANG, as a firework that sounded more like a quarter stick of dynamite, went off near us!
I nearly jumped out of my shoes, and immediately suggested we go back to Parque Envigado to get some food sans the explosive ordinances going off around us. The scene wasn’t too rowdy at this point (about 10pm), but it had plenty of potential for trouble later on in the night: lots of young kids, drinking, police, and explosives!
When we arrived in Parque Envigado, I was blown away (no pun) by the holiday lights. It was unlike anything else I’d ever seen. Lights were strung over all the main streets, as far as the eye could see. There was a giant moon lit up in the middle of the park, and the main church looked gorgeous in white lights.
We got some food from one of the numerous street vendors, while a parade of chivas (party buses) drove by.
My first chiva experience is coming up Saturday, December 11th. Just me and 49 Colombian and foreign friends, drinking on a bus and rolling around the city looking at the lights and yelling obnoxiously at the pedestrians!
After eating, we walked around a little, and made our way to a big empty bar. Fireworks were being set off around central Envigado too, but not so near us so it wasn’t as startling.
Inside the bar, we had a beer, but I was surprised to learn that the bars were closing at midnight. The bartender said Sabaneta bars would be open later, until 3am, but that was farther than either of us wanted to go. It was, after all, only Tuesday.
At midnight, December in Colombia was officially underway, with fireworks going off all over the place. On a street corner, while waiting for a taxi, I was watching one guy light them in his hands, and then watching them launch up and explode with a bright light white over head.
The night’s fireworks weren’t on the scale I anticipated, but seeing Envigado’s decorations got me excited about coming back to photograph it all.