After teaching for ten months at a private language school in Cuenca, Ecuador, I was ready for an adventure. A two-week vacation in Colombia would be my last fling before I returned to the United States. First stop: Bogota
Colombia’s capital is located in the center of the country, high in the Andes Mountains, at an elevation of over 8,600 feet. Although I traveled to Bogota at the end of June, the weather was quite cool and rainy.
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My travel buddy and I met our Bogota Graffiti Tour group at Parque de Los Periodistas (Journalists’ Park) in the La Candelaria district at 10 am on a Thursday. Our group numbered around fifteen, with people from several different countries. Lucky for us, the tour was in English!
Our wonderful tour guide, Anne, gave us a brief rundown on the history of the street art scene. She explained that graffiti has been legal in Bogota since 2011. However, street artists can still be fined for painting on a private property without the owner’s permission and for tagging, unsolicited art, or graffiti on public buildings or monuments.
Some popular themes for street art are social injustice, political corruption, violence against women and Colombia’s drug wars. But not all street art has a social or political message. The mural Anne is pointing to was painted by celebrated Colombian artist, Pez. The caption at the top translates, “ * Pez * Smiling since 1999.
This mural above depicts a poor Colombian carrying a rich man on his back while also dragging symbols of the media, capitalism, consumerism and the church. I can’t tell you the name of the artist – next time I’ll take notes!
You gotta love this representation of an ex-president of Colombia juggling bribes with a big bag of money by his side.
This detail from a larger work shows how unseen forces controlled the police, soldiers, mercenary and paramilitary groups during Colombia’s years of drug violence.
These examples of street art were chosen (by me, of course) for their outstanding beauty, creativity, and/or inspirational message.
This colorful many-eyed beetle above was created by Nomada, one of a family of Colombian street artists who are known for their “animales fantasticos” (fantastic animals).
Above, a gorgeous mural with an Asian theme. The artist’s name is on the right side.
I included this mural above because it was painted by a female artist, a relative rarity on the street art scene. What does the butterfly symbolize? Your guess is as good as mine.
This painting celebrates the diversity of Colombian society. The caption says, “Everyone counts.”
I enjoyed The Bogota Graffiti Tour so much that I did some research on street art after I returned home. I plan to continue to seek out graffiti and street art as I travel to other cities and countries.
It’s a great way to learn about the social and political issues of an area, as well as gaining insight into its history, culture and contemporary (and temporary!) art.
Sylvia Renfro grew up in Needles, CA (pop. 6,000) and has never lost her affection for small towns. She received a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and an MA in Teaching English as Second Language from Northern Arizona University. Persistence and good juju have enabled her to work at the two things she loves best—teaching and writing.