Friday, June 17, 2011

An Empty Place Against the Hills

The dream..,,,,,..and the reality.
The plan, announced in Oct. 2008, was spectacular: a huge, gleaming cultural complex on La Candelaria's Eje Ambiental. The hi-tech center would give a great boost to downtown Bogotá, attracting more investment, tourism and cultural activity.

An empty lot which was
supposed to be the cultural center.
Spain's 5.7 million euro investment in the Spanish Cultural Center (another report says 8 million euros) would also represent a giving back by the one-time colonial power, which shipped home countless pearls, gold and emeralds from colonial Colombia.

Bogotá did its part, buying land, making plans and demolishing the existing buildings, to the tune of about one million dollars.

This grazing horse ignores the sign promising the Spanish Cultural Center.
But then Spain's economy crashed, and the plans never left the page. Now, a year after the project was supposed to have been finished, the construction license is about to expire and Bogotá needs to make a decision: either keep waiting for Spain's economy to recover, whenever that happens, or do something else with the site.

With no light at the end of the tunnel for Spain's economy, it would seem best for Bogotá to find another use for this prime piece of real estate: Perhaps a Colombian history academy, which would host public events. Or a public arts center. Or a sports center.

Whenever Spain finds the funds, they'll be able to find another piece of spare real estate in Bogotá.

Graffiti's the only culture going on here. 
In the future, before investing in something like this, Colombia might consider asking for the other country's money to be deposited in an escrow account. And what was that I heard about a Greek-Colombian Cultural Center? Perhaps it's time for Colombia to show off its deep historical and cultural connections to Saudi Arabia.

Update: On July 1, El Tiempo reports that Spain's International Cultural Agency says it will build the cultural center. Let's wait and see. I wonder what the indignados protesting against government cutbacks on Spain's streets think about their government spending eight million euros in Colombia?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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