|The entrance to El Bronx, on the left. After taking this picture, several drug dealers kicked my bike as I pedaled furiously past. On the building's corner it says 'Christ loves you.'|
|A man walks across Los Martires Plaza.|
This street, called El Bronx (or La Ele), near Los Martires Plaza, might contain one of the planet's greatest concentration of vice and crime. Near the entrance, a furious market operates in notoriously stolen property. Inside, I've heard, are prostitutes, drug dens and child crack addicts: complete human degradation.
|Soldiers stand by the monument to Colombia's |
revolultionary martyrs on the plaza.
Behind them is the Iglesia del Voto Nacional.
About three days ago, three people were shot in El Bronx under confused circumstances. Police told reporters that there had been disputes between El Bronx's residents. A man who frequents the area told me that a disturbed man had charged into El Bronx firing a gun "just like happens in the United States." I passed by El Bronx's entrance Thursday afternoon and one of the drug dealers who hang out at its entrance told me that everything was "normal again." Normal for El Bronx, that is.
Today I bicycled by again, snapping a few pictures, which the Bronx's denizens do not like. This time the drug dealers yelled at me and kicked my bike. I'm not sure why they didn't try to knock me off of the bike and steal the camera, but perhaps they have an understanding with local police: keep your problems inside El Bronx.
Even so, many people have told me that inside El Bronx you're safer than you are in the supermarket, because a strict code of conduct is enforced, so as not to scare away customers.
|A pedicab driver on a Los Martires street. |
The neighborhood has many hardware
stores and other small businesses.
El Bronx is home for many drug addicts and other homeless people, who sleep curled on the ground or in shacks. It's also a drug distribution center for the city. But El Bronx is also a community with an economy, including beauticians and hair-dressers, of a sort.
Why does El Bronx exist? A police officer once suggested to me that, since vice and crime were inevitable, it was better to have them concentrated in one place. That's sensible enough.
Last year, the police made one of their rare invasions of El Bronx and confisticated more than 900 kilograms of marijuana - tripling pot prices throughout Bogotá.
|The once-wealthy neighborhood has |
many homes with still-handsome facades.
The episode has had repercussions far beyond what El Bronx's denizens could have imagined. Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro announced by Twitter that the Martires District's mayor "is on his way out," for destroying Bronx residents' shacks - and got himself into trouble for supposedly misusing his Twitter account.
Meanwhile, those back in El Bronx likely do not care. They're into their own thing.
According to Thursday's El Tiempo, the man who shot the three people and injured four others has not been found.
Related Post: Back Into El Bronx
Video: 'The Cemetery of the Living Dead.'
Video about a police raid on El Bronx, and the tremendous haul of drugs and stolen merchandise.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours