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A german woman's street

By: Maria Fernanda Caballero Mejía

December, 2016.

Photo by SkyscraperCity

Most of Medellin´s streets were baptized in honor to the independence heroes and battles; but some of them are named after people who did something very important in favor of medellinenses. Are there any on El Poblado?

Just a few of Medellin’s streets are named after a woman. Liberators, warriors and politicians were in charge of naming them, but thanks to her work, Mrs. Benedikta earned the Transversal Intermedia between San Lucas Mall and El Escobero to be named after her. Also the well known “Esquina de las Mujeres” (located at Carrera Bolivar with Calle 73, behind the Jardín Botánico de Medellín) a bust made by Luz Maria Piedrahita Botero, features her as one of the 15 woman who contributed significantly to Antioquia’s development.

Sophie Benedikta Zur Nieden

Foreigners coming to visit and then come back over and over again is nothing new, until they finally decide to stay; a lot of them come to do social work anonymously and others out stand. Sophie Benedikta Zur Nieden de Echavarria, was borned at Hersheid, Central Germany on August 18th 1910, but lived at Medellin most of her life. While living more than 50 years in Colombia, Benedikta founded several teaching centers in Medellin, was very interested on new ways of teaching, on teaching music to young people, was the Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Antioquia and her work turned out to be a great contribution to the cultural and educational development.

After her daughter’s tragic death and her husband’s kidnapping and murder, Diego Echavarria Misas, (Antioquia’s first kidnapping) Mrs. Benedikta Zur Nieden de Echavarria could have returned to her country; but decided to stay and keep working on the local’s development, that wish finally joined her with her husband until the end.

She and her husband moved to Medellin on 1934 after her family’s torment during Germany’s World War II, her husband, Diego Echavarria Misas, Don Alejandro Echavarria Isaza’s son, Coltejer’s founder. Part of a wealthy family, Don Diego studied at Germany where he met Mrs. Benedikta and both traveled to Colombia to make history. Don Diego and Doña “Dita”, the special nickname she had, got worried about their only daughter’s education, Isolda Echavarria, who played the piano, the violin and also painted since her childhood, Isolda died in the US at age 19 while in college on 1967, the cause of death: a decease called Guillain Barré Landry.

Doña Benedikta founded the Colegio Alemán on 1969 after her daughter’s death as a tribute to her, the school is located at the Itagui’s municipality. After Don Diego’s death on 1971, Doña Dita moved to El Castillo, today is called Museo El Castillo, Restructured the Orquesta Sinfónica de Antioquia and for that she installed musical youth teaching forums. Then she founded a musical academy for youngsters, but there weren’t a lot of people interested so the “Diego Echavarria Misas” elementary musical school was born. After 1981, Doña Benedikta decided to teach the Waldorf pedagogy, teaching art as the basics for developing intellect and creativity.

She founded the Colegio Isolda Ec, on 1988 founded the Centro Humanístico Micael to teach the Waldorf pedagogy and show teaches an alternative teaching method in Colombia.

Don Diego Echavarría Misas was a well known philanthropic, he donated a big part of his money to the Aburra’s Valley municipalities and Doña Sophie Benedikta Zur Nieden always fought for the artistic, social and educational ideals. This woman left her fingerprint on the department, pushed the Waldorf pedagogy and created numerous social, cultural and educational work along with her husband, libraries, hospitals, elder homes, artist’s sponsorship, land donations, civic awards creation, among others.

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