Monday, June 30, 2014

Colombia/Panama Day 3: Bogota- Bike Tour

The bike tour was almost canceled again!  But I just stood there, speaking with the owner, confused as to what to do, for about an hour.  30 minutes after the tour was supposed to begin people began showing up.  Era un milagro.  The owner had already given my money back!  
Bogotravel Tours is a great company.  They have local guides (the other bike tour company has guides from the States which to me does not sound as fun).  The tour was in English as everyone else in the tour was from the US.  I wish the tour was in Spanish but I should just be happy that there was a tour since I leave tomorrow!  

Today was La Ciclovía as well.  It is a holiday, although the owner of Bogotravel Tours was not certain why.  It sprinkled a little initially but it got sunny soon after.  The weather changes quickly in Bogota.  It is hot and sunny one moment, and cloudy and cool the next.  

The goal of Fernando, our tour guide, was to make us feel like Colombians.  When we were at la plaza Bolivar he called over two men from a fruit cart to speak with us about their experiences in Bogota.  They are from Tumaco, Colombia, and came to Bogota to make a living because the economy in Tumaco is bad.   In an anti-drug campaign funded by the US government since the 1990's the Colombian government has been using an aerial fumigation tactic to combat coca plants and coke production.  This kills all crops (bananas, pineapples, coffee) and has killed animals and contaminated rivers (posing serious health risks to those living in the area, including indigenous populations).  Tumaco is one town of many located on the Pacific coast that is sprayed with pesticides regularly.  

During la Ciclovía makeshift bike shops are set up on the side of the road.  

Part of the tour was la Plaza de Toros, a bullring built in 1931 that is no longer in use due to the regular protesting because of the inequity between social classes.  

We rode to Simon Bolivar's park for lunch.  I never would have come here on my own, and it was the best food I have had so far.  

These arepas were so good I ate two.  They were different than the one I had before, it was thin like a crepe and the cheese was melted on top and folded in half.  It was one of the most delicious things that I have had in my entire life.  

I tried many juices (and am crossing my fingers I don't get mono) like borojó and lulo and other fruits I had never heard of.  I got a cut mango in a cup (why get something new when I know what I love?).  
Part of the tour was of the local graffiti scattered around the city, and the interpretation of the political and social messages. 

This large mural is dedicated to Jaime Garzón, a very well loved Colombian figure who was assassinated in 1999 by paramilitary forces because of his political activism.  He was a journalist, lawyer, comedian and peace activist.  The quote on the right says "desde aqui las sonrisas pais de mirda".  It is based on what his journalist friend said while on the air.  In frustration and anger, after announcing that his best friend was dead, he signed off by saying 'pais de mierda'- country of shit.  

The bike tour ended with Fernando pulling a stencil and spray paint cans out of his bag, and telling us that we would now be making graffiti ourselves.  We all just looked at each other in shock, especially after hearing that when Justin Bieber was here for a concert 7 months ago he decided he would do graffiti without permission and Colombian graffiti artists freaked out and covered it up immediately.  Apparently there is a new law that you can do graffiti on any public space.  Some of us on the tour were discussing this as we watched the stencil being put up, doubtful that a new law was put in place in the last few months.  Most of us participated in helping to paint the soccer ball.  I was the first to volunteer.  
Graffitiing was the last thing I expected to do on a bike tour, but I suppose it was apropos.  

When in Colombia... 

1 comment:

  1. Again, so much to discuss. Okay, when you get home, we have to see Colombian film director Samuel Córdoba's documentary about the Tumaco. The film, entitled "Tumaco Pacífico", chronicles the stilt-house area of the city, predominantly populated by Afro-Colombians. Córdoba was inspired by a panoramic photo of the stilt houses he saw in a photography book on Tumaco.

    You can't throw out a name and assume I know who he was. Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) was the greatest leader of Latin America's independence movement from Spain. A superb general and a charismatic politician, he not only drove the Spanish from northern South America but also was instrumental in the early formative years of the republics that sprang up once the Spanish had gone.

    As for the Graffiti, I have a problem with it and even worked hard to rid Spoleto of it when we lived there. Then I read more about it where you are. Colombia is throwing off its negative reputation with a cultural and artistic renaissance to match any of its South American neighbours. Nowhere is this more evident than in the street art which adorns Bogotá’s walls, and which reveals the untrammelled creativity of the capital’s graffiti artists.

    I have learned so much. Thank you so Brady.


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