Published: February 22nd 2010February 15th 2010
My first day here dispelled a lot of rumors surrounding the kidnapping, narco-trafficking, guerilla metropolis of South America that is Bogota. From the airport, we took a taxi from Northern Bogota to Candelaria, the southernmost district of the city which is renowned for its socially elite class and high levels of violence. Our taxi driver, a gold-toothed gregarious man from a nearby farming suburb, informed us that just over two years ago you couldn´t pass one block of Candelaria where a police officer wasn´t standing vigilant on every corner... and people were still being robbed in the middle of the day. I had no problems in the streets whatsoever and found almost everyone I encountered to be not just amicable but sincerely friendly and excited to share their country with foreigners. In the hostel in which we stayed, I met a lawyer from Cali (southern Colombia), and because we didn´t know the city, he took us on a walking tour and gave a brief history of some of the most important historic monuments. We spent hours talking about the differences and similarities between the U.S. and Colombia, relations between the two, our respective presidents, and other such topics not normally discussed upon first encounters. This kind of thing happened several more times with taxi drivers, travelors, barristas, and students. Everywhere we went, people were welcoming, curious, and open-hearted.
Candelaria is one of the most beautiful barrios of the city, as the construction is all original colonial architecture from the 16th and 17th centuries. Church facades in South America are much more colorful than in the states. I went into one of the Cathedrals and saw a Jesus wearing a grass skirt which made me wonder if he was really one of those bobble-head dolls ubiquitous among truckers. Secondly, not only was the son of God wearing a crown of thorns but also a few extra spikes stuck into his spine, back, hands and feet... and the look on his face implied that he wasn´t taking the pain with the usual grace of a king of kings and lord of lords like you see back in the states. This Jesus looked like he´d just stepped on a scorpion while getting struck by lightning, a mixture of pain and surprise under a HUGE wooden cross. Why does Jesus suffer so much more in this country? Paul Theroux speculated that in South America, Jesus has to suffer more because he is supposed to be the barer of all human suffering... not easy to do when the lives of every-day people are ridden with disease, hunger, cruel dictators, political corruption, and drug cartels. I´d say Jesus has got his work cut out for him.