Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day Scenes from Bethlehem (Bogotá)

On the Circunvular Santa sits precariously on a ledge. 
Belén, the neighborhood just south of La Candelaria, was given its Holy Land name by the very-Catholic Spaniards who founded Bogotá. Today, it's a down-on-its-luck neighborhood with poverty and crime problems, but also lots of great people, expansive views and well-preserved old houses.

The city has tried to 'renew' the neighborhood, which generally means increasing property values and driving out the current low-income residents. They did this most prominently with landmark projects such as the construction of the Nuevo Santa Fe apartments, designed by Rogelio Salmona, and the Archivo de Bogotá a block further south.

Colorful flags decorate a street. 
Nevertheless, the neighborhood, with its narrow streets and crumbling homes hasn't shaken its crime and poverty problems. As I was taking photos of the church, a rough-looking young man walked past yelling out insults at me. I wanted to continue up the street and take more pictures on the neighborhood's strip of small businesses. But on the corner three tough-looking kids seemed to be watching me. Trying to appear relaxed and natural, I picked up my dog and bicycled back down the hill.

But, even if I don't walk freely thru all of its streets, I do like Belén for its small businesses and gritty, but very real, sense of neighborhood. But that neighborhood character is threatened, I fear, as the city builds avenues thru and around the neighborhood.

The Archivo de Bogotá, beyond a trashy, empty field which would make a good park. 

A girl tries out her Christmas skates in front of the ASCOVE, the organization of Colombian veterans of the Korean War. 
A corner shop. 

Police pass a crumbling house. 
The vine-covered sign promises a shiny hi-tech development on this empty lot. It hasn't happened yet. 
Neighbors have a chicken Christmas day dinner. 
The recently-built Avenida de los Comuneros slashes thru and divides the neighborhood. 

Pedestrians pass in front of wall murals. 

Stately older homes. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

mauricio forero l said...

Excellent post Mike.