Nene is proud, and rightfully so: he survived! He shows us around his neighborhood in the notorious 13th district of Medellin and shares his story.

He grows up in a small room, sharing a bed with his five brothers. Outside, a war is going on. A mixture of gangs, guerrillas and paramilitaries fight amongst themselves and with the military for territory. Bullets fly around, bombs are detonated and helicopters and tanks occupy the air and the streets. Invisible borders dictate where you can go and children are kept inside. A dozen bodies are carried out of the neighborhood every day, eventually resulting in the world’s largest urban mass grave.

Through a friend, Nene gets a tape with hip-hop from New York. He doesn’t understand a word of it but he feels it, loves it, wants it. He starts to write music and rap as well. As his music-making reputation grows, he’s left alone by the groups of fighting men. It saves him from joining in on the violence. He still carries the tape with him. Music travels much further than a bullet, he says.

Today, there’s still armed police guarding the entrances of the neighborhood and the atmosphere can be grim at times. But houses are rebuilt and children are happily running around outside. Music is blasting from speakers and there’s too many dogs to count. Nene now organizes music and dance classes for the community and we see kids drumming on barrels. When the night falls, little lights illuminate the colorful district.

A man smiles as we pass him, ‘Bienvenido al barrio’ – welcome in the neighborhood.

#Colombia 2019 @ Comuna 13, Medellín, Colombia

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