During the Pablo Escobar time, tourists would never have dared to go to today’s Parque de las Luces – Park of lights. One of the buildings on the plaza, then called Plaza Cisneros, used to be the drug kingpin’s cartels headquarter. Today the same building is the Ministry of Education. The plaza is part of a larger transformation project in Medellin, to turn the unfortunate past into something good. The newly renovated plaza also contains 300 huge white vertical poles with attached lamps that are lit up at night – from a controversial project called “Medellin is light” of architect Juan Manuel Pelaez. The plaza is located next to the old and beautifully renovated train station, local and departmental government buildings and the Medellin Public Companies (EPM) library.
Some problems still persist, but it is now being used as a public space for markets and city events.
The plaza’s history is very fascinating, it used to a place for tradesmen and farmers from around the region to unload fruits, vegetables and other goods. All kinds of goods were delivered to the city by train, and from the plaza everything was distributed to smaller markets all over the city. The plaza was also the first thing visitors would see when they arrived to the city by train. The area around the square, now called “el hueco” (the hole), used to be full of cheap hotels and storage facilities due to the mass transit, but most of them are today preserved as cultural heritages.
Nevertheless, the Colombian railroad went bankrupt in the 1960s, and the wholesale market was relocated to the “Mayorista” market in the 1990s. After this, the plaza became a dangerous place attracting thieves and drug addicts. As a counteraction to the park’s insecure situation, the former mayor of Medellin decided to build the cylinders while the local energy provider EPM built the library. Recently the police have been present during daytime, but the park is still an unsafe place in the evenings.
To get more information about the history of Medellin, we can recommend you to take a look at our transformation tour.