Today is the 50th anniversary of U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy's 1961 visit to Bogotá. Kennedy came ostensibly to promote the Alliance for Progress, a Washington-backed development effort. But his visit was more about the ongoing Cold War and Washington's desire to keep Bogotá firmly within its orbit.
|The South Bogotá site where U.S. support would build the El Techo housing project.|
"Today we face our greatest challenge to the vitality of our American revolution. Millions of our people -- scattered across a vast and rich continent -- endure lives of misery. We must prove to them that free institutions can best answer their implacable demand for social justice, for food, more material welfare and above all, for a new hope - for themselves and for their children."
|John F. Kennedy sets the first brick at El Techo.|
"We in the United States have made many mistakes in our relations with Latin America. We have not always understood the magnitude of your problems or accepted our responsibility for the welfare of the hemisphere."
...a warning against communism....
"They promise free elections, and free speech and freedom of religion. But once power is achieved, elections are eliminated, speech is stifled and the worship of God is prohibited."
|A cartoon makes fun of Pres. Alberto Lleras' closeness to Uncle Sam.|
Just eight months before, the Kennedy administration would back the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.
That same day, Kennedy had visited a south Bogotá neighborhood where the U.S. was financing a housing project for the poor called 'El Techo.'
|South Bogotá's Ciudad Kennedy today. (Photo: The Tall Gringo)|
Two years later, Kennedy would be assassinated in Dallas. Colombia named a south Bogotá neighborhood in his honor, but today it remains a poor and troubled part of the city.
With the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, the U.S. turned inward, preoccupied with Civil Rights and domestic poverty, and soon after became obsessed with the failing war in Vietnam.
Today, Latin America continues to be burdened by poverty and inequality. Cuba remains a thorn in Washington's side, and socialist rhetoric - if not reality - has received new life from a new generation of leftist leaders in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours