Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Cemetery's Art of Discord

The empty mausoleums along 26th Street, with their stencils commemorating the conflict's victims.
Does anybody notice? Drivers pass the
mausoleums decorated by Gonzalez.
You've probably noticed them while traveling east along Calle 26 past the Central Cemetery: the mausoleums decorated with stenciled images of men carrying stretchers and corpses representing victims of Colombia's violence.

The thousands of images are the work of artists Beatriz Gonzalez and a partner and provide a

haunting reminder of Colombia's violence, in particular the victims of the 1948 Bogotazo riots...for those who notice them. My impression is that few do, (despite enforced viewing from Calle 26's chronic traffic jams), and even fewer pay attention.

Gonzalez is now fighting to preserve the artwork in the face of city plans to create a park in the old block of the Central Cemetery.

The stencils of the discord.
Historical memory is important. But so is greeen space, particularly in a poor neighborhood with little of it. A football pitch, a skateboard park and a basketball court would give the youths of the troubled Santa Fe neighborhood behind the cemetery an alternative to drugs and gangs. Some young rappers from Santa Fe whom I knew used to tell me almost routinely about their friends getting stabbed and even murdered. I understand that today one of those same rappers is dead and another is an addict.

And, if the city does the sensible thing by using part of the land for recreation while preserving one of the mausoleums, with explanatory information, lots more people would see the memorial and we might have fewer murders to lament.

The situation strikes me as absurd. But not nearly as absurd as the land across the street and the other a few blocks west by the Jaime Garzon mural, which could be nice public parks if the city did not fence them off with barbed wire. Go figger.

Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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