The park fills up, quickly.
This is the first Saturday of every month at Parque Bolívar, where the Mercado de San Alejo draws paisas and tourists looking for bags to bracelets to dresses, even tables, chairs and other furniture. Music is playing and people are playing games. Almost everyone is smiling.
I went on the first Saturday of this month to take a couple I had recently met, Zac from Maine and Rose from Ohio. They met each other in the Boston area, and I met them in January, when I was in San Gil, and we exchanged contact information before we all left.
When I arrived at their hostel they said, “We heard there’s some kind of fair going on downtown.” I had yet to go to the fair, something I had wanted to do, so I told them, I can take you.
It’s an easy trip on the Metro, which stops in the middle of downtown, the best stop for the fair being Parque Berrio. After you leave the station, just walk a couple of blocks east on Calle 51 until Carrera 49, then head north. Carrera 49 eventually becomes Pasaje Junín, a pedestrian walkway lined with shops and restaurants that ends at Parque Bolívar.
The park covers about two blocks and is named for Simón Bolívar, who helped Colombia to independence from Spain and later became Venezuela’s second president.
Getting through the park on this day was like trying to get to the bar at a popular club. Lots of people going your direction, heading the opposite way, coming in from all angles. No worries, though. Simple phrases such as “disculpe” and “permiso” almost always draw “tranquilo” as a response from the friendly paisas, who are happy to share their culture.
In the middle of the park, just before the Bolívar statue, we saw people playing a game that requires you to throw coins on different numbers. I think the way it works is, if you throw a 500-peso coin, it has to land on one of the rectangles with “500” on it, either to win a prize or another coin.
I was hoping to stay a little longer to watch but Zac and Rose began to disappear into the crowd. I thought it was interesting that the woman playing at the time was wearing a blue shirt that said, “Hawaii” across the chest, with flowers on each side of the word.
As we got to the north end of the park, we noticed people playing music, sitting on the steps, relaxing. Behind them there is a large fountain and behind that, the beautiful Metropolitan Catedral de Medellín. I always make it a point to admire these old churches in Europe or South America because I love the architecture.
We didn’t buy anything but someday I might. I plan to be in Medellín for a while so I have lots of time to go back.