Sunday, November 27, 2011

Snapshots from Belen: History, Poverty and Architecture.

An old woman walks past a weathered building in Bogotá's Belen neighborhood. 
The Belen neighborhood is La Candelaria's southern neighbor and its poorer cousin. Like La Candelaria, known as Bogotá's historic center, Belen contains many elegant old buildings - altho many are in decay. But the city's efforts to rejuvenate Belen, which is both poor and troubled by crime, have demolished many old buildings to build dramatic, modern structures such as the archives of Bogotá and Colombia. The government also tried to lure in middle class residents with the Nuevo Santa Fe apartment complex, built in the mid-1980s.

A residential street in Belen. 
The city also recently slashed an avenue thru the heart of Belen, dividing the neighborhood in two. Belen was once contiguous to La Candelaria, until the city bulldozed Calles 7 and 8 to create the avenue connecting the Circunvular Ave. with the Presidential Palace. 

Amidst the history and architecture is a neighorhood with lots of poverty and questions about its future. Will the city continue its renovation projects until the old community is gone? Will La Candelaria's tourism industry and university community spread into Belen and price out its current residents?

Belen means Bethlehem. Like Egipto, Las Cruces, La Candelaria and other central Bogota neighborhoods founded by the Spanish, its name is Biblically inspired.

Carpentry shops on Calle 8.

Entrance to the Archivo de la Nacion, the National Archive, designed by architect Rogelio Salmona

The Archivo de la Nacion's side view. 
A mural showing a woman holding a caged child.
Nectorio in his carpentry shop on Calle 7.
Part of the El Nuevo Santa Fe apartment complex, also designed by Rogelio Salmona
An older couple taking a rest in front of the Nuevo Santa Fe apartments.
Children playing futsal. 

The Archivo de Bogota, a graceful building which occupies a whole block and is a favorite of skateboarders and young cyclists.

A beggar stands in front of the preserved facade of an art-deco-style building. The building was demolisehd and replaced with a government ministry.  

A decaying building, covered with tents. 

Fronts of crumbling buildings. 

A handsome doorway. 

An old doorway shows its age. 

La Iglesia de Belen. 

A very old church, whose name I don't know. 
For years, this sign has promised that nice apartments will be built on this empty lot across the street from the Archivo de Bogota. 
Another empty lot with an old billboard promising new apartments. 

The San Agustin Church, across the street from the Presidential Palace, the Palacio de Nariño. 
A doorway. 

A stairway in the Archivo de la Nacion, with the Nuevo Santa Fe apartments behind. 

A handsome old building, probably owned by the government. 

A wall of the Archivo de la Nacion. 

A once-elegant home, now worn. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

Excellent Post Mike.
It is totally depressing to see so many beautiful buildings falling down, abandoned, and forgotten.
So tell me Mike, what do you think is needed to stop the lost of this treasures, some of them centuries old and with so much history. Do you think Petro may do something about it.

Mauricio Forero.

mauricio forero l said...

Sorry Mike, I forgot to ask you if the ARCHIVO DE LA NACION building is also Salmona's work.


M. Forero.

Miguel said...

Hi Mauricio,

Thanks for your comments.

I haven't heard Mayor Petro talk about the historic center's buildings. But if downtown Bogotá experiences something of a renaissance, then property owners will decide it's worthwhile to invest and restore their buildings.


Miguel said...

yes, the Archivo de la Nacion was designed by Rogelio Salmona, but the Archivo de Bogotá was not.