Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Evolution of La Candelaria

Residents walk along a cobblestone street in La Candelaria.
 La Candelaria, Bogotá's oldest neighborhood and still the city's heart, has undergone multiple evolutions.

Poor people walk uphill toward the
Egipto neighborhood.
For centuries after the city's founding in 1538, La Candelaria was the home of the city's elite, its power brokers. The wealthy began moving out of the historic center during the 1920s, according to a report by the Universidad Nacional, and the 1948 Bogotazo devastated the city's center, pushign the wealthy north to newer neighborhoods such as Teusaquillo, Chapinero and Usaquen. Meanwhile, amid Colombia's chronic violence, the city's historic center became known for crime, poverty and decay.

However, since the early 2000s, thanks to Colombia's increased stability, lower crime rates and growing economy, La Candelaria has experienced something of a renaissance, with tourism, growing universities and rising property prices.

And now a study by Universidad Nacional students makes it official: La Candelaria is gentrifying.

Dying breed? A neighborhood shop.
According to the university report, monthly apartment rentals in the neighborhood are around a million pesos - a hefty sum in a city which defines an income of more than 200,000 pesos per month as being 'not poor' - and houses can be worth several billion pesos.

As a result, says the study, "the traditional low-income residents are beginning to migrate to other parts of Bogotá, such as the south, which can be noticed by the replacement of shoemakers and bakeries with expensive restaurants."

Today, La Candelaria still feels like a neighborhood. But, as rising rents force out traditional residents, it may lose that and turn into a district of old buildings, quaint cafes and museums.

Universities, such as the Catholic La Salle, have expanded, bringing more students and money to La Candelaria.
Increased police presence has made tourists and residents feel safer, altho crime remains a problem.
However, will La Candelaria ruin itself thru success?

Traffic jams have become chronic in the historical center. But instead of discouraging private car use, officials are allowing the Externado University to build a huge parking garage on the hillside.
A few years ago, someone built this faux-old house on Calle 9.
Whether because of corruption, lack of laws or lack of enforcement, the city keeps permitting constructions which conflict with the neighborhood's historic ambience.
Are those mushrooms behind these houses?
This multi-story apartment building going up on a cobblestone block of Carrera 3 doesn't look very colonial.
Some scenes of La Candelaria?

The Abadia Colonial Hotel was renovated by its Italian owner.
A beggar woman hawks flowers on a La Candelaria doorstep.
A delivery bike in front of a quaint store.
A view down Calle 10.
A theatre and the recently-renovated Muisca Hotel.

Tourists walk near La Plaza del Chorro.
Locals play their daily board game.

A used book store's doorway.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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