For so long Bogota has been a city that belonged to no one. Now, I can say after seven years here that I get the distinct feeling that at long last Bogotanos are taking ownership of their city. Problems aside, (I have written frequently on the topic) Bogota may finally be acquiring a post Gaitan identity. My point is that there is a new type of citizen occupying the evolution of the city, there is a Bogotano with roots and upbringing in the city. This is a Bogotano who may possess heritage from Santander, Boyacá or Meta and beyond, but who knows less of these regions and more of the capital and identifies with her.
Bogota has been spoken of poorly repeatedly by those arriving here, tourists, nationals and otherwise, described as la nevera and so on. Bogota is spoken of elsewhere as full of rateros, chaotic and stifled by pollution. I heard a Bogotano recently mention that the city is no longer the Atenas de Suramerica but the Tenaz Suramericana. But, times are changing.
With scores of Colombians being driven to the capital city through violence in the countryside dating back more than 60 years, drawn in by the prospect of work and the trappings that normally accompany migrations to cities, Bogota grew in the past half century as a city of convenience and necessity all the while being a curiously geographical and an infrastructural inconvenience.
In 1950 Bogota had a population of around 700,000 people, the area of Park Way had been completed only five years previously, and the city was still reeling from the Bogotazo of April 1948. But, consider the size of this capital city alongside that of other cities in the region at this time; Santiago de Chile had a population of over 2 million and Buenos Aires greater than 5 million. Bogota was essentially an oversized town. The city was an anomaly high up in the northern Andes, a capital in name only.
Photographs from 1954 show views of the Sabana de Bogota from the top of the Carrera Septima and the Avenida Chile (Calle 72) interrupted only by the imposing Templo de la Porciúncula. The city was rural.
There is now a cadre of two generations born and raised as purely from Bogota, this is their city. As they say in Spanish, the younger generations have started to apropriarse de Bogota.
Of course, Bogota has stubbed edges and possesses a shabby decadence, but, this is the beginning of the change. I believe that this evolution was set into motion years ago but came up against the inherent corruption that incapacitates any forward thinking actions here. And of course the political scenery is decidedly worrisome.
Don’t get me wrong, Mayor Gustavo Petro has not been the best option for the city, but, he is a progressive thinker who needs to apply some conservative values to appease the right and the naysayers. There are half a dozen options who would have been better candidates for the position, but, the people threw their lot in with Mr. Petro, let him see out his tenure, replacing him will just create further instability and delay further Bogota’s search for a socially inclusive and international identity.
Bogota is now a community, Bogota is gaining her identity, why would so many people from different parts of the world be making their homes here? This is a greater population than solely foreign correspondents and employees in the rank and file of the ubiquitous and necessary NGOs. People are seeing opportunity and are investing.
Now is the time for Bogota and I am glad to be a part of this renaissance.