June 2018- Who wouldn’t want to travel to Medellín, Colombia with Tatu Baby??
I was thrilled to meet “Spider” the organizer of the Medellin Tattoo Convention while I was in Colombia with James Vaughn, Jesse Knuckles and Andres Bastidas (travel blog to come). I had organized a trip for those artists to attend the Rio Negro Tattoo Convention, which is a reputable tattoo convention in Colombia accompanied by a boxing event!
Constantly a positive experience when traveling with Tatu Baby
I have traveled in the past with Tatu Baby who is humble, gracious, incredibly talented, and so genuine with her fans. We have attended the Cezanne Tattoo Convention held in Aix En Provence in the South of France. As well as a New Zealand tattoo convention in the past. (more blogs to come.. hard to keep up!) I was beyond delighted to travel with her again and to see her country as well as her father’s city of Medellín!
Descending into mountainous Medellín Colombia
Since this was my second trip flying into beautiful mountainous Medellín Colombia, I witnessed that just before landing someone always yells out something in excitement in Spanish while most passengers clapped. Colombians have so much pride and love for their beautiful country. Medellín is nicknamed “the City of Eternal Spring” with the average temperature is 72°F year round. We were greeted by the organizer Spider, at the airport then loaded into a bullet proof vehicle. Yes, you read that right.. bullet proof. How do I know this? Well, I tried to operate my window but a bullet proof vehicle will only allow for windows to go down 3” due to the thickness of the glass. (another first for me) Ok then….. carjacking is real in Colombia?? I was informed the incidence of this crime has fallen significantly, thankfully. In route to our hotel the Hotel Dann Carlton Medellin we stopped at a road side restaurant for traditional and authentic Colombian food. I ordered an iconic dish called “Bandeja Paisa”, which is a dish that comes with ground beef, rice, beans, plantain, avocado, eggs, arepa (corn cake) and chicharron (fried pork belly). I enjoy experiencing all types of traditional and usually new to me food when we’re traveling!
When I plan convention travel for artists I always plan to either arrive a few days earlier or stay a few days after. When I first started working with tattoo artists in 2013, I realized that they would spend significant time traveling to a country, usually jet lagged, but never seeing outside the convention walls. I believe these tattoo artists are creative individuals who need to experience culture for inspiration to continue with their craft. This has lead to some hilarious travel moments I am now trying to document!
Touring Medellín and Sabaneta Colombia
On our first day we traveled a short distance to Nutibara Hill. Nutibara Hill is a rocky hill formation located in and over looking the vast city of Medellín. (see video above of the city) It is one of the few ecosystems that is conserved in Medellín and is considered one of the city’s seven “guardian” hills. There are grand, unobstructed views of the city in every direction, a small museum and a copy of a Colombian village. In one of the many food vendors Tatu Baby introduced me to mango’s with salt…. Try it!!
The city of Medellín is massive with 16 comunas (districts), 5 corregimientos (townships), and 271 barrios (neighborhoods). We drove along with large numbers of motorcyclists to another area of Medellín where I met and was welcomed by many of her aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. at a family restaurant, a mini family reunion actually. Once the reunion was over, some of the younger family members drove us to a historic Roman Catholic village called Sabaneta where parishioners reportedly saw the appearance of the Virgin Mary. It has also become a “center of pilgrimage for the mafia” and its sicarios. Plus, the town boasts the largest buñuelo! We relaxed eating the buñuelo at one of the small restaurants while watching a candle lite, religious procession take place around the square which happens every single night! A buñuelo is a fried dough cheese fritter served at breakfast, lunch and dinner in Columbia and as a snack too.
Weekend Entertainment at the Tattoo Convention Medellín
Friday, Saturday and Sunday were convention time. The convention was held at Plaza Mayor. There were long lines of fans patiently waiting to meet Tatu Baby and take photos with her. Her father was with us as well for extra security. Before the convention Tatu Baby devised a fun idea to give back to her fans. We created a drawing contest and the winner would join her for dinner Sunday night after the convention. All types of creative works were submitted and handed to her. Paintings, drawings of her, children’s drawings, etc. Plus she had an abundance of media inquires. She interviewed with Q’hubo Medellin which she later graced the cover of. (see photo below) The is a widely read popular newspaper in Medellín and Antioquia.
The convention had plenty of people who attended all weekend with tattooed eyeballs, split tongues and ‘horns’ – made from pieces of medically safe plastic surgically inserted beneath the skin, somewhat typical at a tattoo convention. Plus I saw a girl in knotted bondage on roller skates being pulled around the convention floor. Not sure why this made such an impression on me.
Tattoo friends from around the world!
Was great to see Rikardo Pardo G who seems to be the voice/MC of tattoo conventions in Colombia. Super friendly dude and full of great energy. I was so surprised to performance artist Jacob Angel again. Who performs under the stage name The Angel of Death, the “real Colombian vampire”. I originally met him and his girlfriend while attending Alchemy Tattoo convention in Switzerland. Such a small and awesome community, the tattoo industry! This was also my third time hugging uber adorable Yefferson Cossio a sweet male model and Colombian musician. I originally met him in Ecuador then again at the Rio Negro, Colombia tattoo convention.
There were awesome vendors including a waffle company from the Netherlands! I can absolutely include Spider in the group of organizers I now consider a friend, who runs a professional, courteous, safe and well managed tattoo convention.
On Sunday, two individual aspiring artists won the drawing contest who later joined us for dinner at a restaurant inside what is known as “parks”/ parque in Medellín. We were at Parque Lleras which is a Piazza of sorts, a meeting place with beautiful small streets lined up with hostels, boutiques, restaurants and small stores. You can find people dancing, performing, clubs, vendors and plenty of people watching. All ages gather in the evenings at parques throughout Medellín, a place to be seen. Tatu Baby gave the both winners creative and inspirational recommendations about the tattoo industry, how to stay inspired and overall positive career advice.
That evening I was told a quote that has stayed with me…. “The biggest thing to fear about visting Medellín is fear of falling in love with Medellín” and I could not agree more. It’s truly Fantastic city with some of the nicest people! I highly recommend visiting parts of it.
Final stop Plaza Botero Medellín
One of our last tourist stops, before flying home, was at Plaza Botero which is one of the top tourist attractions in Medellín. Plaza Botero is an outside park in front of Museo de Antioquia that displays 23 abstract bronze sculptures created by World-renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Trust me you have seen this artists work. He creates paintings and sculptures of people and figures in large, exaggerated volumes, which has been used to represent political criticism or humor depending on the piece. Botero donated the statues and many other artworks found in Museo de Antioquia. It’s a crowded plaza so be careful and watch your belongings, but absolutely worth a visit to see these enormous statues.
Medellín Colombia was another very successful trip! As always Tatu Baby is such a sweetheart to travel with, amazing to her fans, tattooed some incredible pieces and generously introduced me to her familia at a time in my life when I really needed some hugs and family time. I think I may have been adopted. I look forward to working with Spider again to send another incredible artist to his convention in Medellín. Thank you again Spider! And as always thank you Tatu Baby for being such a great friend and awesome travel partner!