This is the second part of a two-part interview with Colombian cyclist, Mauricio Leyva. You can read Part I here.
Switchback Publications: Now lets talk about Medellin. I have been here about a month and I love this city. What do you like most about Medellin?
Mauricio Leyva: I like the weather, the girls - my wife is from Medellin - and the people are very nice and friendly.
And the family. In Medellin, the family is very important; its the nucleus of society. And in the family, the most important person is the mother. So whats really nice in Medellin is the values and the culture.
SP: As I mentioned, I've been here about a month. I find Medellin a very peaceful, calm city. But it wasn't always like that. Back in the 1980s, Medellin was a very different place. It was violent and unsafe. What was Medellin like for you in the 1980s?
ML: In the 1980s, I was in school. The word in Spanish is "zozobra" which means "anxiety". You fear all day long because you don't know what is happening. It was very hard because most young kids play in the street. But we had to stay in our houses. It was hard for our parents because they always worried if we went outside.
Its no mystery that a lot of bombs were exploding in the city. We didn't live the way that kids live today, or the way that kids live in other cities around the world. That era made us stronger and it made us want security.
Today, we have the results of that era. We choose leaders who offer security to us.
SP: Was it a constant fear, or only at certain times?
ML: It was constant. In our school and in our houses. If you talk to anyone from Medellin, every one was touched directly by the violence. Someone in the family was kidnapped, or hurt by a bomb, or a car stolen. The violence touched everyone in a certain way. That has an impact on everyone's life.
SP: Looking forward, what will Medellin be like in 10 or 20 years from now?
ML: Medellin will be a really important industrial city. We are the second biggest city now in Colombia, after Bogota. Today, we are building our future. In the economic aspect, its going to be better. We have a lot of nice companies that give back to the community. I think Medellin will be an important business center not just for Colombia but for Latin America. As I told you, I work in financial services. Different financial services companies are looking to Medellin and seeing it as an important city.
SP: Finally, what would you like readers to know about Colombia that we haven't mentioned?
ML: I could tell you a few things, but I think the most important things may come from you, Duncan. We are used to it, but you are a foreigner. For example, you say how friendly Colombians are. For us, its normal. I read that people in Medellin consider Medellin as their house and you always want to receive people as nicely as possible.
SP: Colombians are the friendliest people I have met. I met more people here in my first week than I did during my three months in Europe. Several people invited me to dinner, including you, Juan David, and others. I meet cyclists on the road and we become friends.
ML: For us, its normal. For other Colombians, it may not be normal to be so friendly. Its normal for us to help others and make things easier for them. If you enjoy it, you'll come back and your friends will come too.
SP: Finally, what was it like for a Colombian to win a stage of the Giro d'Italia?
ML: It was great. But, each time we see a Colombian cyclist on ESPN or a TV sports channel, its great. For example, just knowing Mauricio Soler was riding with two broken wrists after crashing last year. He was suffering. Even those stages we enjoy. We are really proud of our cyclists. We feel pride just to know a Colombian is racing in Europe.
SP: Thank you so much Mauricio. This has been a great interview.