The True Story Behind La Arbolada in Medellín

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The True Story Behind La Arbolada in Medellín

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Medellín is popular for its colorful and light-filled Decembers. During Christmas, the city is full of decorations and ornaments that create a cozy and emotional atmosphere. One of the most characteristic dates of this season is La Arbolada, which occurs at midnight on December 1th, welcoming the start of December. However, the origin of this celebration is darker than you imagine.

What is La Arbolada?

La Arbolada is a night to receive the month of December, and people do it with guns and fireworks which typically last for about an hour. This also marks the beginning of Christmas, and it is impressive to see how so many fireworks light up the sky at night. This tradition is not only carried out in Medellín but also in other municipalities of Antioquia and cities in Colombia. In general, it is a celebration that is carried out with great joy and emotion, and even it has become a family recreation.

However, this is not a tradition that was born as an entertainment designed for the family, but rather its origin is related to drug trafficking and terrorism, two things for which this city suffered so much in the past.

Social Context in Which La Arbolada Was Born

Twenty years ago, Medellín was still a city where drug trafficking and narcoterrorism had power. On the night of November 30th, 2003, the drug trafficker Diego Fernando Bejarano Murillo, alias Don Berna, and his block Cacique Nutibara, decided to move from Medellín after the agreements made with the government at that time and former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Despite the mobilization, as a sign that they still had possession over the city, they made an explosion of gunpowder and fireworks that lasted many minutes. Similar to how La Arbolada is carried out today.

Of course, nowadays the families that celebrate this tradition probably do so without knowing the true origin of this date or have forgotten it, but it is still a sad episode for the history of this beautiful city.

Consequences of La Arbolada

As entertaining as it can be to watch the fireworks at night, after La Arbolada there are always consequences. The large amount of fireworks stuns the animals to the point where they can die, as this causes nervous breakdowns and alters their heart rate.
The use of fireworks is also a threat to children who dare to participate, even under adult supervision. Besides from the noise pollution, gunpowder can also cause asthma attacks or crisis in people with allergies.

Even if you are not part of this celebration, it is inevitable to witness it, either because of the fireworks that invade the sky or the noise that is impossible to ignore. Whether or not you want to be part of it, it is recommended to take precautions especially if you live with children or pets, who are the most vulnerable during this night. By taking precautions you will be able to receive the month of December without accidents and you will get to experience La Arbolada without major problems.



I have over 20yrs experience in Software Engineering and Digital Marketing. I'm also the founder of, my goal is to help both visitors of and locals of Medellin by providing trusted resource of everything Medellin. If you're interested in Guest writing for please feel free to contact me.

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