After leaving Medellin this morning, we arrived back in Bogota to have a leisurely lunch near our hotel, and then spent most of the afternoon exploring La Candelaria with the Bogota Graffiti Tour walking group. The Bogota Graffiti Tour started back in 2011 and is the original, free graffiti art walking tour in Bogota that operates on donations only. While showing you the local art on the streets, the guide also talks you through the historical, political, and social aspects of all these artists who have created these works, activists, and the daily lives of Colombians. They work in partnership with the local community and artists to fund community events and also local street art.
I’ve always really enjoyed street art culture in any city we’ve visited that had a lot of it, and Bogota and Medellin are definitely on steroids when it comes to the sheer amount of street art we have seen literally everywhere. The last time I felt we saw anywhere as much was for the brief time we had visited Sao Paulo, Brazil, back in June 2014.
The guide of our tour was actually born in Bogota, but raised in New York City and Miami. He decided to move back to Bogota from Miami about 14 years ago and considers Bogota his real home. During the tour, he said to us, “I’m pretty sure that when you told your friends and family you were coming to Colombia that they either thought you were crazy or questioned how safe it was for you to come here. Now, you can all go back home and tell them that you had a great time, it was safe, and now they should come, too!” Colombia is full of people who just want to make a living for their families and live a somewhat meaningful life. In that sense, they’re just like any other people anywhere in the world; they are hardly more dangerous than anyone else. So, our guide said that the worst thing we could do is to continue watching Narcos on Netflix or perpetuating Pablo Escobar-era stories of drugs and crime and violence of Colombia; instead, we should encourage more tourism into cities like Bogota, which are still in the process of getting accustomed to having visitors from all over the world. Yes, crime and violence exist here. Corruption at the government level exists here. But is that really any different than the U.S. at the end of the day, with a current administration which encourages anti-Semitism, hatred of immigrants (both legal and illegal) and people of color, sexism, and praises dictators from other countries? Really, the only difference for Americans like me is that we’ve basically become numb to President Dipshit’s stupidity and hatred, to his encouragement of violence, to mass and school shootings that are literally happening every single day; that is part of our everyday life, our daily consumption of the media. However, what is not day to day for us, at least in proximity, is drug trafficking, drug violence, and cocaine being grown on farms. That is unfamiliar to us, and what is unfamiliar to us scares us as a people. The familiar, no matter how screwed up it is, won’t scare us because that is our version of “normal.” Isn’t that kind of sad to think about, that somehow, hearing about *yet another* mass shooting is just numbing to us and oftentimes today, is met with indifference, yet if we were to hear (in the U.S.) of car bombings or shots being fired due to drug violence, that that would freak us out?