Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bogotá's Children's Day Parade

A few scenes from today's children's parade.

However, along the way, thes indigenous woman and infant were sitting on the sidewalk, begging. In Colombia, 5,000 children die each year from problems caused by malnutrition. 12 percent of Colombian children suffer from chronic malnutrition. And many of those children will suffer reduced lifetime mental development, all according to a recent UNICEF report.

Written by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Defend La Ciclovía de la Septima!

Seventh Ave. Ciclovia - are its days numbered?

La Ciclovía is a Bogotá tradition and has been imitated (but never matched) by many cities across North and South America. Of the hundreds of kilometers of streets which are closed to cars on Sundays and holidays, Seventh Ave. is by far the most important because of its popularity with users and because it passes many of the capital's most important historical and political landmarks, as well as parks and neighborhoods.

However, this most important section of La Ciclovia is now endangered by plans to expand the city's Transmilenio express bus system along Seventh. Already, the Ciclovia line on 26th Street disappeared a year ago when the city began work on a TM line along that avenue.

We don't object to TM expansion - today Seventh Ave. is chaotic and polluted. But we don't want to see this Bogotá tradition mortally wounded. Disappearance of the Seventh Ave. Ciclovia would not only hurt businesses like Bogotá Bike Tours, it would also deprive many thousands of bogotanos of their Sunday recreation and deal a severe economic blow to the hundreds of mainly low-income people who sell food and repair bicycles along La Ciclovía's route.

We defenders of La Ciclovía are demanding that officials designate an alternate route during construction and that La Ciclovía return to its most important corridor once construction is completed.

La Ciclovía's defenders are planning a big march Nov. 14, Day of the Bicycle, from the National Park to Bolivar Square, demanding that La Ciclovía de la Septima be saved!!! Read more at:

Aristobulo, and friends, who fix bikes near the National Park, show off invitations to the march!

Yolanda, who cooks and sells food along La Ciclovia with her skateboarder friends go all out in defense of La Ciclovia!

Yolanda's flyer calling for participation in the march to save La Ciclovia!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cemetery Revival

Visitors look at slides illustrating the life and work of Julio Garavito, an astronomer who is on the 20,000 peso bill.

These days, in celebration of both Halloween and Colombia's bicentennial, Bogotá's Central Cemetery is holding a 'revival,' although the dead have not yet clawed their way out of their tombs.

The Central Cemetery has some 22,000 tombs, including the graves of some of the most important people of Colombia's history, including many ex-presidents, at least one ex-dictator, the founder of Bogotá and leaders of the revolution against Spain.
The grave of Dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla.

Several of the buried here have also gained almost saintly status. The most famous is that of Leo Siegfried Kopp, a Jewish-German immigrant who founded the Bavaria Beer Company. Believers sometimes line up a dozen strong to whisper in Sr. Kopp's ear and ask him for favors.

Blog written by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

The cemetery exhibition was designed and staffed by Urbe .

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Corruption Worsens?

Colombia dropped three places, from 75th to 78th place, out of 178 ranked nations, in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. Colombia's corruption does not rival that of some of its neighbors, such as Bolivia, Paraguay and Venezuela, where I lived and could tell stories...(Venezuela came in dead last in Latin America, behind even perpetual basket cases Paraguay and Haiti. I suspect that Venezuela has not sunk below those nations, but that its drop from functionality to disfunctionality and populism has

But Colombia's corruption levels - and more importantly its corruption perception - have been damaged by the scandals and corruption accusations around Bogota's express bus expansion projects, which are wildly over budget and way behind schedule.

By Mike Ceaser of Bogota Bike Tours

Monday, October 25, 2010

California Pot and Colombia

Colombian Pres. Juan Manuel Santos said the other day that California's ballot initiative to partially legalize marijuana would be a disaster for Colombia. After all, just imagine what in the world will they say to those poor Colombian pot farmers, when their product is being sold legally in California?

I've got news for Pres. Santos: Pot is already quasi-legal in many places, as it was here in Colombia from 1991 until almost a year ago. Instead of a problem, the Colombian government should see this as an opportunity, an excuse to quit persecuting poor peasants, to empty prisons and generate new taxes and exports. After all, back in my high school days so many years ago,
Colombian Gold was the gold standard for pot.

And pot legalization might just be for a first step toward legalization of cocaine, heroin and other drugs, which would take away a huge income source from Colombia's outlaw guerrillas, paramilitaries and narcos.

In refreshing contrast, Colombian Congress President Armando Benedetti, a Santos supporter, supports drug legalization. But, sensibly, he recognizes that going it along would make Colombia an international pariah. But he wants it done multilaterally.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours.

The Polo Demoractico Self Destructs

Samuel Moreno got elected mayor of Bogotá in 2007 on a smile and a promise to improve the city's transit system. Today, most bogotanos appear to regret their decision, as fear of crime has increased and the Transmilenio expansion strangles the city's traffic and its progress lags amidst accusations of corruption and mismanagement.

Unfortunately for Colombian politics, Mayor Moreno's slumping fortunes may sink his party with him. Once upon a time, Colombia had two dominant political parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, who traded power back and forth in a semi-authoritarian system. Today, they are only two amongst many parties in a mostly conservative political landscape. So, the left-wing Polo Democratico has served as an important counterweight to the conservative-dominated presidency. If the Polo self destructs amidst accusations between the Polo's leaders it will mean a real loss for Colombia's democracy.

By Mike Ceaser of Bogota Bike Tours

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bogotá's Underground Reopens

These mysterious stairwells in the center of Bogotá prtompt passerby to ask whether the city has a subway system or air raid shelters. On weekdays, men crowd around the stairwells trading emeralds. In fact, the stairwells lead to a pair of underground rooms, which are all that remain of a building demolished in the 1930s to make way for widening of the Ave. Jimenez.

After four years closed to the public, during which the space was used for teaching music and theatre, the basement rooms have been given to the Universidad Distrital to manage and are to open to the public as art galleries, theatres and for dancing.

It's all part of the efforts to rejuvenate Bogotá's city center, which includes transit expansion, new parks, hotels and offices and improved public spaces.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Peoples' Congress

Camilo Torres, the guerrilla priest, overlooks the National U's Plaza del Ché
The People's Congress, or Congreso de los Pueblos, is being held on the National University's Bogotá campus. To the congress came members of Colombia's indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians, who share the same status as the indigenous.

Indigenous and black Colombians are among those who have suffered the most from the nation's half-century long armed conflict.
While El Ché watches from the other side. 

The Congress of the People contributed lots of graffiti to La Nacho.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogota Bike Tours