Taking Bogotá for Granted

Are we at risk of taking our capital city of Bogotá for granted? Love her, hate her, try moving closer in, try getting away, you cannot doubt for one second that you are overwhelmingly, well, just here. That’s what Bogotá does, she demands that you are engaged actively in the city and merge your subjectivity into her. Bogotá changes as you change yourself.

A Chatarrero in Bogotá

Bogotá provides us with the authentic flavour and grittiness sought out by writers (just look at Jack London writing in London’s East End, George Orwell in Wigan, Paris and London to name two). The graffiti, the traffic, the smog and the political unrest (reference: Revoquemos a Peñalosa), there’s no doubting it, there’s a psychedelic environment seen through clouds of basuco, wave it away and feel the punk allure of this city. Walking her streets expose the sexual frontiers that stem as from a blend of crude urban pornography. Could we say this, that this image is the new degenerate narrative as the Bogotá Pastoral.

the NY Eisenstadt moment

So, where’s her Eisenstadt moment? Where’s Bogotá’s equivalent of the sailor kissing the unknown nurse? Peace was signed (twice) and on the second occasion it occurred in the ornate Teatro Colón on the Calle 10 in the Candelaria. On June 26, the FARC handed over their final batch of weapons in their possession at their zones of transition around the country and precious few people were out celebrating. More people pay attention when James Rodriguez comes off the bench at his latest football club. This level of indifference or disinterest is fascinating, it’s also a punk rock shrug at the establishment.

The balance within Bogotá’s centre has collapsed and the violence has spilled over. This is in no way in reference to the partial destruction of the Bronx. This is a view of the dialectic of light and darkness in Bogotá, innocence and violation. It’s rather like the images of New York in the movie Taxi Driver. There it is again, the punk attraction of this city.

Punk Bogota

Bogotá Punk

Bogotá is a contradiction. Here you can see the crossroads of classes and ideas and values. There’s a “shock-doctrine capitalism” taking place downtown, to use the terminology of Naomi Klein, and we haven’t even woken up to see it. Except, can this type of capitalism work in a post-industrial and deindustrializing sector of the city? There’s nostalgia on every street corner but, be suspicious of the discourse of nostalgia. Just as the centre of Bogotá represents people and light, do not forget that people use nostalgia to suck light out of the present.

So, what image of our city do we hold in our heart? Are we taking Bogotá for granted?



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About Richard

Anglo-Canadian resident in Colombia. Journalist, Writer, Hotelier, Expedition Guide
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