If ever there was a city more suited to being “punk rock” then it would be Bogota. Normally garlanded with praise as being the “Athens of South America” or “2600m closer to the stars”, take a step back and really look at this city, I mean, become the dirt beneath its nails, trip on the uneven and cracked pavements, breathe in the dark fumes from the buses and get behind the wheel of a car in the contraflujo and feel yourself snarling and ready to bike chain someone Sid Vicious style.
There is a street level DIY feel to Bogota right now, something is happening, there is change afoot and it’s this distorted yet present undercurrent of displeasure that feels like punk, not the music but the attitude. While overwhelmingly untrusted politicians steal the show, popular music stars, extravagant narcos and heavily painted soap opera actors barricade our access to worthwhile and satisfying contemporary culture with the message of fast, easy and accessible money.
And while the national TV channels of Caracol and RCN are keen to shock us with “real” soap operas theirs is a view far removed from what is actually taking place.
All 65 tons of the shanty town referred to as the Bronx has been cleared away displacing a huge number of Bogota’s more vulnerable and addicts leaving them essentially homeless. Theoretically they are being cared by for by the state, but we all know that they will end up being pushed into another barrio. Have you ever been near to the Carcel Distrital when the offenders are released on a Thursday afternoon? Neither have I, but sources tell me that businesses shut in anticipation of an hour-long crime wave. Reality bites.
This is a real city, there is essence, there is the brutality on the streets and in the architecture, in the nature of a 3000 peso corrientazo for lunch (for 4000 pesos you can get the same lunch but clarified as being “carne de res”). Drink a chicha in the Candelaria and as it slides down like fermented cement, you know that you are in a melting pot of cultures searching for an identity – where is Bogota and where is she headed?
This is the first step in the long process of reconciliation towards becoming a more inclusive city and Bogota, just like every other capital has to go through the motions. We may yearn for a time past when the wide tree-lined avenues and well-lit boulevards made Bogota an Andean center for culture and manners, but, that’s something from a different era. The city and her citizens are shaken awake by a reality far different.
Just watch the city news of a morning enjoying your tamale and observe how much air time is given over to car crashes, drink driving, muggings and theft. A great deal. We can shake our heads disapprovingly and wonder what the politicians are doing about it all, but no one could have put it better than Distorted Truth with their anthem Party Political Bullshit.
And while on the topic of politics, there is political debate here, this is healthy; this is reactionary and shows that debate in itself is a positive thing. It was refreshing to see the students out en masse last year – although I berate those who were involved in wanton destruction of both public and private property.
Punks in Bogota seem to congregate in a few open spaces just to the west and a couple of blocks below the Carrera Septima from the Javeriana University, terrifying gomelo students and elderly well-educated Bogotanos alike. Their angst and petulant show of force is nothing like the energy you can feel in the city as a whole. This is Bogota’s moment to pull herself up and unleash herself as a burst of halitosis-infused bad breath up the scale to becoming an international city par excellence. This is Bogota’s punk rock moment as she stumbles forward.