Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The New Bronx

It was El Bronx. What will it be in ten years?
A year ago, this was a place of frantic activity: Drug dealing, prostitution, even torture and murder. Today, it's quiet, except for a few laborers demolishing the old buildings.

Plenty of drug addicts are still around. 
This was El Bronx, for years Bogotá's most notorious street, until one year ago Mayor Enrique Peñalosa sent in thousands of police to clear it out. Inside, they found torture chambers, cemeteries and child prostitutes and crack addicts.

The treatment of the people they found there was very irregular: some reportedly were bussed to surrounding towns and simply left there, while I'm told that others were dumped on the edge of the polluted Bogotá River. According to the city government, several hundred entered treatment for drug dependency.

The neighborhood's environment has changed. Fewer drug addicts wander about, and the threatening atmosphere is reduced.

One neighboring storeowner had conflicting feelings about the change. On the positive side, some
The entrance to what was El Bronx.
customers are no longer afraid to come to the area, she said. The homeless and drug addicts didn't bother her personally, she said, 'since they were doing their own thing,' but they did stink.

Many of the drug addicts now spend their days lying on the median strips of neighboring avenues.

The city has ambitious plans for the area, including attracting health care, design industries, higher education and building low-income housing. The neighboring Martires Plaza and the Iglesia del Voto Nacional are being refurbished.

But the city's plans feel like a threat for local businesspeople. The store owner said business owners fear the city will use eminent domain to purchase their properties without giving them a fair price.

The neighboring Iglesia del Voto Nacional is being renovated.

And Los Martires Plaza has also been fixed up.

The city is building apartments and shopping in what was the old Cartucho neighborhood.

Los Martires hardware stores.
 The neighborhood is full of small retail businesses.
And bedwear shops.
Once a wealthy neighborhood, some grand old homes remain.
Homeless drug addicts spend their days on La Plaza España.
A few blocks west, La Plaza España has changed little. Perhaps Bronx residents moved here.

Street art on Plaza España.

An old man sits in front of a closed pasta factory on Plaza España.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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