An introduction to Bogotá

When you arrive Bogotá you’ll see those similar aspects of every metropole: traffic, a huge urban space with constructions spread throughout the city, endless avenues, endless blocks of buildings.If you are accustomed to living in a city on sea level like me, you will be affected at first from the altitude: 2600 metres above sea level, a capital city founded between the mountains. You will need to walk slowly and drink more water. The city is built in grid plan and it’s divided into Zones (G,...

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Museo de Oro: endless stories that the gold tell us, the legend of El Dorado

Long before the Spanish came here, today’s Colombia was a land where many clans, with their own culture and social structure used to live: Muiscas in today’s Bogota metropolitan area, Tayronas in the north, many others like Sunis, Quimbayas, San Augustines, Zunus, people whom were later called ‘indians’ by the White Man. The museum has a rich collection of thousands of pieces which give us clues of the daily lives, spiritual practices, social conditions of these people; so it is a real gem!...

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Portraits of people from the Gold Museum: Shaman, a bird men, the meditating man, the chieftain

The Shaman, an important figure in pre-Columbian cultures. The power of the shaman comes from his ability to transform into other beings such as birds, jaguars, and to possess their qualities: ability to fly, sharp eye view, power, courage. Of course they would not be acting exactly like these animals, they would be entering in a state of trance and passing into an other dimension. One of these animals was the bat. When we see these pieces, the accessories they used to put on their faces and...

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St Francis Church and the Park of Santander: the places that have witnessed the fight for independence

Right in front of the Gold Museum is the Santander Square. It takes its name from the statue in the middle of it, Santander, a prominent figure of the independence movement. Across the street we see the St Francis Church, a brown, rectangular shape wide church, the oldest one in Bogota, built in the 16th century. It witnessed the fight for independence, starting from the 18th century, against the Spanish colonialism. The independence was declared in 1881 in Cartagena, under the leadership of...

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Poet’s House: Casa de Poesia Asunción Silva, hearing writers and poets read with their own voice

A less discovered place in the old town. There was a scene in a novel I read that took place here, which made me curious about it. This red coloured one store house is the house of a famous Colombian poet, Asunción Silva lived for a couple of years before he committed suicide at the age of 30. It is never crowded, a silent place with a ‘patio’, a book store, a room where you find the cassettes of several writers and poets who read their own books with their own voice. We ask for Gabriel...

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Teatro Colón: a touch of Europe in the new world

It is cited as one of the most beautiful concert halls of the world. When we went there it was a Sunday and it was closed but we could get a sense of its elegance from the exterior. Colombia’s National Theatre was built by the Italian architect Pietro Cantini in a neo-classical style who took the Palais Garnier in Paris as a model. Right in front of it is Simon Bolivar’s residence. According to the story, during a siege he escaped from one of the windows of this building, the house of his...

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The centre of the old town of La Candelaria, Plaza Bolivar: religion, law and politics

We are at the centre of the old town of La Candelaria. This is the Bolivar Square. Right across us is the Cathedral, at the north side stands the Palace of Justice, at the south is the Capitolium, the Parliament. We read the words at the façade of the Palace of Justice: “Colombians, the arms gave you your independence, the laws will give you your freedom’. At this Palace one of the most bloody events of Colombian guerrilla history took place. 06 November 1985, a group of guerillas called 19...

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La Puerta Falsa: the oldest restaurant of Bogotá

As you walk down the Colon Theatre, before you reach the Bolivar Square, you will find this little place at the right hand side of the street. Always a queue on its door, it’s so tiny you’ll need to wait a bit to taste some of the traditional foods of Colombia. The menu is quite brief: tamal is a rice-chicken meal inside the banana leaves, ajiaco is a big soup with chicken, and finally the full chocolate menu which is hot chocolate served with two butter breads and a slice of cheese, you put...

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Botero Museum: dimensions determine our perceptions!

The Botero Museums, both in Bogota and in Medellin, are some of the top tourist attractions due to artist’s worldwide fame. His sculptures, from the Park Avenue in New York to Champs Elysée in Paris, are worth millions of dollars. This collection of more than hundred Botero paintings and a hand sculpture at the entrance of the museum, along with some of his personal collection of Picasso, Chagall, Miro, are all donations of the artist to this public museum, which you can visit free of charge....

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Graffiti: the cry of unheard voices

It’s more than a street art, it is the unheard voices shouting from the walls, the best way to learn about the sub cultures. All the messages, artistic, conceptual, political, humorous are hidden in these walls. The graffiti tours take place every morning and afternoon starting from the Journalists Park and walking through the streets of la Candelaria and lasts about 2,5 hours, guided by qualified guides who give you all the details about the artists and their works. You are expected to tip...

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Graffiti: a political tool

Graffiti is not only about painting city walls, it is also about giving political messages. Here in Bogotá it is the voice of Latin American people who have always suffered and who are continuing to suffer; a fight for survival from the period of Spanish colonisation to today’s global capitalist era. The lands where the gap between the richest and the poorest is the highest, where even the natural sources like water, air, that belong to the people need to be protected from being exploited by...

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Photo diary: reading the language of Bogota streets

Graffiti artists seem like vagabonds who travel from one place to another, travellers without home. They wake up at night and paint the walls, each one having a different style, they leave their signature and depart for another city. Some of them are acclaimed and highly paid artists. Kiptoe, Vera, we read the names while we walk and picture them. It is not as easy as it may seem, graffiti artists who were seen once seen as illegal activists and even shot by the police have today a more...

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Gaitán: a lost hope for Colombians

A little wall painting in the old town between the two buildings, the head of a man shouting, or calling people, and looking hopeful for the future. This political figure is an important one in the history of Colombia, he is Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, after starting to work as Mayor he became Minister. When he became a candidate for presidency they started to see him as a threat and he became the victim of a political assassination. A travel story, a man leaves Cuba to travel till Colombia in...

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La Pola: from the name of a rebel to a beer brand, chichi vs beer

Walking along the streets of La Candelaria is taking a history class about Colombia. La Pola, or with her full name Policarpa Salavarrieta. She was born in 26 February 1795 in Guaduas, was executed in 14 November 1817 in Bogota. This statue at the corner of a street by the Journalists Square (Plaza de los Periodistas) shows us who was La Palo, a prominent lady of the independence movement. She is one of the heroes of this fight. When she was 14 she joined the cry for independence; took an...

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Bogotá, From Modern Art Museum to the National Museum

The museums are the collective memory of a country/nation, the collective memory of Colombia is exhibited in Bogota’s National Museum. If you have fully visited the most important museum in town, the Gold Museum, the corridors of the National Museum are waiting for you. This time we start our walk at the Modern Art Museum. The entrance of the museum and the little square in front of it is followed by stairs coloured by an art work. French artist Daniel Buren’s work ‘From half circles to full...

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Bogota: La Candelaria, a day in the old town

The historical centre of Bogota, La Candelaria, is a place that looks like time stands still since the 16th century! Cobble stone streets, one floor houses painted in lively colours, a well preserved place where you’ll find museums, book stores, squares, parks, cafés, street performers, musicians. You may start your walk at the Bolivar Square, a big square surrounded by the Cathedral, the Palace of Justice and the Parliament. If you take the road at the corner that leads to the Presidential...

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El Chorro: zero point of the city of Bogotá

This is the place where Bogota was founded, shortly called ‘El Chorro’, the full name is Square of Chorro de Quevedo. From the time of the Muiscas, the people of pre-Colomb era, the city was extended from this point on. The city’s foundation is cited as 1538. The oldest street is right behind this square. The Embudo Street, Callejón del Embudo, a narrow cobblestone street with several graffiti paintings. If you rise your head you’ll also see the sculptures, an acrobat riding a bike on a cable...

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Montserrate: a birdlook to Bogotá

Bogota is a capital city between the mountains, located at 2600 metres above sea level. There’s even a higher point where a Cathedral is built: Montserrate, taking the same name from the mountain in Catalonia, is located at 3150 meters. It is a sacred place from the time of the indigenous people, the Muiscas. When you are at the old town, la Candelaria, you can see it above, you can even walk there if you are fit enough, it is about a 45 minutes climb. You have other two options: the...

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An escape from the city, the Salt Cathedral: a cross is not only a cross

The Salt Cathedral is built inside the salt mines in Zipaquira, an hour drive from Bogota. It is built inside the mine, you walk down 200 metres to reach it, a pilgrim destination for Christians, also the the most visited place in Colombia. As you pass the entrance you will feel the salt in your nose until you go out to open air. The biggest part of the visit tells you the story of the ‘way of the cross’, the fifteen steps, with a cross in each one - different from the others- fifteen steps...

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Bógota 39, Latin America’s new literary voices

The UK based literature festival Hay had recently its Latin American gathering in the city of Cartagenas.Bogota 39 named Latin America’s promising writers under the age of forty who participated many activities within the festival. These writers are writers under the age of forty, with at least one published book, and they are the new voices, the new story-tellers of Latin America.In a country like Colombia or in any other country that witnessed the Latin American ‘boom’ in literature it...

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