Why did we write “Bogotá through the 5 Senses” a bilingual walking guide to our capital city? Or, “the non guide to Bogotá.”
I’ve said it before, but there may well be a renaissance underway in Colombia. Call it what you will, against the backdrop of signed-off peace with the FARC and continuing negotiations with the ELN rebels, tumbling oil prices and economic woes, rising costs of living and problems in Venezuela, yet despite all of these aforementioned issues things feel positive. And this upbeat sentiment is displayed nowhere more so than in the capital of Bogotá.
When I arrived to live fulltime in Bogotá in early 2007, I can distinctly remember that along the Calle 10 in the Candelaria, the only places offering food were tiendas del barrio and corrientazos. This was fine for me as a jobbing freelance journalist, but, in the same measure as I enjoy a locally produced and inexpensive home cooked meal, I am thrilled to have been here to witness an evolution to what is now available to the visitor and the curious Bogotano.
This maturation of Bogotá is not solely limited to the culinary world; we are beginning to see the blossoming of a pre-existing arts scene which is now becoming the norm. There is still a way to go and unlike the behaviour some of our politicians here, comparisons should not be made with famed European capitals and cities of culture such as Paris and Barcelona, but more realistically within a Latin American sphere of influence.
I make this argument because I am qualified to do so and after 17 plus years in Latin America I have had the good fortune to have lived, travelled or worked in almost every urban center from Mendoza to Managua and beyond and can say that the majority of Latin American cities are not places which inspire you to spend too much time. Of course in the same breath, we can make inevitable mentions of Buenos Aires, Santiago and Rio de Janeiro not to mention Montevideo, but, there’s a difference in that I am addressing the cities which do not belong under that “European catch-all” and which are still in the process of finding an identity.
Bogotá sits firmly in the aforementioned category and although in various barrios and districts may display the architecture and polite mannerisms of a suburban borough of London she is very different. Just stroll south one block south or three blocks west from the neo-classical columns which define the Palacio de Nariño and the Plaza de Bolivar and what you are confronted with are some classically latino barrios of misery and human suffering. So wherein lays the city’s identity, well, that’s just it, in the very melting pot to the south of the Calle de los Comuneros, west of the Avenida Caracas, into the middle class Chapinero, from the well-heeled tree-lined streets of Rosales and Chico, the developments of the Cuidadela Colsubsidio and north way up into the spread north and up the Cerros Orientales of Lijaca. Blend this together and you’ll be left with the sancocho of Bogotá.
I resent the declarations that “Bogotá es una ciudad de todos y de nadie” now as those families here for generations are now becoming Bogotanos rather than staking a claim to herald from outlying departments, as if being from the capital may represent something negative. There is a new generation making waves and creating a sense of belonging within Bogotá. This is what we want to show in the 5Bogotá book. Be you from Cali or from Cartagena, it is time to lift the curtain on the “new Bogota”, while not ignoring the negative, but by showing the various facets to life here.
The idea is to highlight Bogotá for Bogotanos and Colombians first and then show her off to her foreign visitors. By unearthing forgotten anecdotes, reclaiming untold histories and telling the story truthfully be it focusing on the unmarked graves of Matatigres, the car workshops of the Siete de Agosto, the Tattoo Parlours of Lourdes, Chapinero’s culinary revolution or the chic bars of the Parque 93, this book aims to provide the first accurate and unexaggerated – warts and all – write up that Bogotá deserves.
This is why we made a great team including the amazing people from 5Bogotá and designers Chaló Chaló and we came together to create, design, write, produce and publish this guide, “the non guide to Bogotá,” also known as, “Bogotá through the 5 Senses.”
So, I hear you ask, where can you get your hands on one of these books? We’ll have “Bogotá through the 5 Senses” available on Amazon soon enough, but, you will be able to purchase copies at a new cultural event, A Moveable Fiesta, Colombia through the eyes of a new generation on September 30.