Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Bathroom's Back in La Plaza del Chorro!

The bathroom is located at the bottom of a stairway.
It is almost dwarfed by the elevator for wheelchair users. 

Finally, La Plaza del Chorro has a bathroom again!

It took only about three years and 50 million pesos, but there it is.

La Plaza del Chorro, always lively. 
For many years, two neighborhood women had operated a bathroom at the bottom of the stairs on the plaza's west side. Their bathroom wasn't always the cleanest, nor did the women observe the strictest hygiene rules - I often saw them preparing their lunch on a hot plate and eating it inside the bathroom.

How long will the complex new
wheelchair elevator last?
But the bathroom served an important function, particularly because the plaza is surrounded by hostels, universities and bars and restaurants. For the ladies who ran it, the bathroom also provided a modest income.

So, when officials from the city government showed up and ordered the bathroom closed in the interests of public hygiene, lots of us shook our heads. Now, instead of less-than-perfect bathroom, the whole neighborhood would turn into an open-air restroom, with no hygiene standards at all.

The shiny new bathroom
(model not always present).
Which was exactly what happened. And the plaza's bars and restaurants got pestered by drunken young people demanding to use their facilities.

But the local City Hall promised that a new public bathroom would be built....soon. Soon turned from months into one year and then three years. Local officials kept promising and promising that remodeling work was just about to start, which it of course did not.And there was a problem, I learned: city regulations required that the new bathrooms include handicapped access. The obvious way to provide such access would be to build a ramp into the steps. But that possible ramp would be a bit too steep to please regulators, and so an expensive and sophisticated elevator was required. But the city didn't have enough money for the elevator - which meant no bathroom for anybody.

Why couldn't the city instead just make an agreement with one of the plaza's restaurants to allow wheelchair users to use their bathroom?

A special stall for wheelchair users.
Besides, in a neighborhood full of drinkers, in which drug addicts rip away and sell every piece of metal they can, how long would a beautiful wheelchair elevator last?

Meanwhile, the neighborhood's alleys and corners continued serving the needs of alchohol-saturated bladders.

The porta-potties didn't
contribute to the plaza's colonial
ambience (or aroma).
The city did place two porta-potties on the plaza, where they looked ugly and quickly became so filthy and revolting that few ventured inside. So much for improving hygiene standards.

Late last year, work finally started on the new bathroom. And this week it was finally inaugurated. After three years' wait and 50 million pesos spent, it does look nice. And it's a plus for the neighborhood's residents and tourists.

Now, let's see how long that elevator lasts. 

Heading to the bathroom. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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