I met Sergio Restrepo in a Colonial-era building known as el Claustro (the Cloister). It was a very early morning in late August, but the day was already sunny and warm, as most days are in Medellín, “the city of eternal spring.” As the director of the building, Restrepo led me through the inner patios, the secret passages to an adjacent church, and the convoluted staircases within the guts of the building.

The Cloister was originally built as a Franciscan convent in 1803, just seven...

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