|Visitors at Lopez Michelson's tomb in Bogotá's Central Cemetery.|
Michelson, a Liberal whose father was himself president two times, may have left his biggest impact
by helping endi the National Front agreement, in which the Liberal and Conservative political parties passed the presidency back and forth every four years. (The agreement was made to end the La Violencia.) After his presidency, Michelson stayed active in politics, writing newspaper columns and leading daring but ultimately unsuccesful initiatives, such as a prisoner exchange to free those kidnapped by the guerrillas and a plan for drug lords to turn themselves in in exchange for not being extradited. At the age of 90, he announced his support for gay marriage. He died in 2007, leaving his latest newspaper column half-written in his study.
|Michelson's family tomb.|
But for years I've been fascinated by a more mundane aspect of Michelson's story: his extraordinarily humble tomb. It's just a grassy rectangle, often with weeds and some trash, near the entrance to Bogotá's central cemetery. Its plaque lists only Michelson's name and the years he was president - as if that was the only time that he actually mattered.
|The huge tomb of Lopez Michelson's father, |
Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo, who was president twice.
In any case, Michelson's resting place contrasts sharply with those of his ex-president neighbors, some of whom lie under grand memorials, and even the big, black marble tomb of Colombia's last dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. The most extraordinary tomb of all, ironically, belongs to Michelson's father, Alfonso Lopez Pumarejo, who was president of Colombia twice, 1934-38 and 1942-45.
|Someon who does not admire Michelsen recently stuck this note on his tomb saying: 'Here lies a leader who did a lot of bad and little good. The bad he did very well and the good he did very badly.'|
|Michelson gets some respect with a flowr bouquet on his tomb.|
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours