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Shooting in Columbia

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Tom Keith
Shooting in Columbia
on Jan 5, 2010 at 12:01:30 am

Shooting in Bogota and Medellin, but mostly in very rural Columbia. Anybody ever shoot down there? Safe? Power issues?



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Jeff Mueller
Re: Shooting in Columbia
on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:36:00 am

I haven't shot there but I've recently spent time in Medellin. I assume you're bringing your own gear/crew? I'd recommend hiring a bilingual local driver (I can make a recommendation for MDE) it will dramatically improve your security and cultural sensitivity. I don't know how good your Spanish is but very few people in Medellin speak English and even fewer in rural areas.

Overall Medellin is basically safe but you need to know where you're going and not flaunt valuables. There are essentially three types of neighborhoods (but they checkerboard the city): wealthy suburban type communities such as Poblado, these are extremely safe in the daytime, more or less safe at night but you could get mugged if it looks like you have something worth taking. Commercial (but not so high class) areas like Centro. Here the major streets and such are teeming with police and thus safe against anything but pickpockets, but stumble off in the wrong direction at night and you could be in trouble. Finally there are the Barrios, 99% of the people of the Barrios are incredibly friendly and giving, but you absolutely need a local guide if you're coming in with expensive camera gear. There has recently been a power vacuum at the top of the local drug network and local Barrio gang leaders are bucking for position. You could 1) simply get caught in the cross fire, 2) be deemed a valuable target or 3) be seen as a threat (camera). Although Medellin is not nearly as poverty stricken as some third world cities (think Mumbai) you have to remember that the poverty at the bottom is unimaginable to us, and someone without hope to feed their family may value life very differently than we do. Those people should be viewed as the exception in Medellin, but you need to remember that they are there.

Until a few years ago any travel by a gringo in rural areas was extremely dangerous. That seems to have changed under Urribe. The "major" roads (if it's got two full lanes and pavements it's "major") are teeming with military and police checkpoints and the guerrillas are on the run. The Colombian guerrillas had largely become a rural gang that profited by drug running and kidnappings for ransom. In December I traveled about 100 kms from Medellin and felt quite safe (but the same precautions as in MDE apply in the small cities). Still, there are areas of the country that are under FARC influence, so if you're going to get off of the major highways you need to know where you're going.

I haven't been to Bogota but I'd expect it to be pretty similar to Medellin. The people there come across as softer and gentler than the Paisas, but don't be fooled, I'm sure that when it gets bad it's just as bad.

Electricity shouldn't be a problem unless you need gobs of it. It's US standard 110 volt. Most outlets don't accommodate a grounding prong so bring adapters. And I wouldn't expect most circuits to be more than 10-15 amps, so act accordingly. The power occasionally goes out, but that's very occasional. I'd bring lots of extensions too (although you can buy that stuff there), because outlets aren't always located where you'd expect.

I hope this helps. Colombia is a beautiful country full of wonderful people with a rich history. Have fun.

Jeff Mueller
http://www.ApertureVideos.com
Santa Barbara, CA


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Jeff Mueller
Re: Shooting in Columbia
on Jan 26, 2010 at 12:41:37 am

PS: I should also point out that it is "Colombia" not "Columbia", it's good to spell the name correctly. Although the neighborhoods around Columbia in NYC can be pretty rough too...I know nothing about Columbia in Chicago so can't help the poster above.

Jeff Mueller
http://www.ApertureVideos.com
Santa Barbara, CA


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