In 1943, when García Márquez first arrived in the Colombian capital Bogotá, it was a gray-colored town with a church, two newspapers, a tram, and 700,000 inhabitants. “My most salacious diversion”, García Márquez said in 1981 about this chapter of his life in Bogotá, “was getting into the blue glass trams that for five cents turned incessantly from Plaza de Bolívar to Avenida de Chile, spending afternoons of desolation that seemed to drag on in an endless line of empty Sundays”.Bogotá Colombia travel Photography
In an article for the newspaper El Tiempo in 2016, Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza wrote: “Today’s Bogotá has nothing to do with the one back then, the one where I spent my childhood. With its trams, its men properly dressed in dark, and the austere façade of the Granada Hotel on one side of Santander Park, with the fountains in Plaza de Bolívar and the old houses with balconies and eaves on Calle Real, the center of Bogotá had the caricatural dignity of a European provincial city. The opposing social hierarchies were expressed in the urban landscape.” Bogotá Colombia travel Photography
The life of this Bogotá radically changed in a single day, on April 9, 1948 with the murder of Liberal leader and presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, and which gave rise to the terribly violent riots called the El Bogotazo. The city of Bogota– capital and temperature gauge of the country– would go on to live several very difficult decades.
Today Bogotá has been transformed into a huge metropolis 2,640 meters above sea level, surrounded by even higher mountains and housing almost 10 million inhabitants. The colorful houses of La Candelaria neighborhood coexist with tall skyscrapers and elegant neighborhoods that from the Chapinero locality climb up the slopes of the valley.
The city of Santa Fe de Bogotá was founded by Gonzálo Giménez de Quesada in 1538. The Spanish chose a wide valley surrounded by mountains, on a plateau in the eastern Andes called La Sabana de Bogotá. That is why the weather is usually cloudy with an abundance of gray days. But when the sun rises and the hills of Montserrate and Guadalupe are visible above the city, the Colombian capital takes on another splendor.
The Candelaria neighborhood is the historical and cultural heart of the city and as the images in this gallery show, it’s where I spent most of my time during the three times I’ve been to Bogotá. In Candelaria, Bogota has one of the best preserved historical centers on the South American continent. Colonial houses with red tile roofs and eaves sit over carved doors that overlook cobblestone streets that go up and down the mountain slope. My journey through Candelaria was always the same. I started from the top of the mountain slope, contemplating the red roofs, then I’d descend and get lost in the colonial streets until I found myself in front of the Botero museum, ending amidst the kaleidoscope of humanity in the Plaza Bolivar.
The square of Plaza Bolivar is the nerve center of the city, built in 1539 under the name of Plaza Mayor, it is the place for parties, masses and bullfights. It is here that on July 20, 1810, “the cry of Independence” was echoed. The plaza, the living heart of Bogotá, is protected by the neoclassical Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción on one side and by the statue of Simon Bolivar in the center. In the plaza the varied people that make up Colombia meet, almost as if to say to the visitor: “Here we are, we are one and the same people.” The 50 million inhabitants of Colombia represent a rich mixture and variety of cultural roots not found in many other places. Bogotá Colombia travel Photography
Bogotá brings together all those rich contrasts of Colombia. All the different cultures and regions from across the country have in the capital a home– from the cuisine of the Coffee Triangle region, to the exhilaration and joy of the Caribbean region, and the artisanal heritage of Boyacá and the Valle de Cauca Festival. Bogotá has erased the traces of its painful past, and today stands as the cultural center of Colombia, uniting the country and looking optimistically towards the future of a country on the upswing.
Pablo Munini © Milan February 2021
Bogotá Colombia travel Photography