As Bogota Transforms, Holistic Planning is Needed – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
This week, Hyperallegic, an art and culture digital platform, published an article talking about the street murals of my hometown, Bogota. While it was an interesting read regarding Colombian culture and history, I personally found it lacked key facts that shift the key elements of the story.
With nearly 9 million people, Bogota has been growing at an exponential rate for the past 50 years. Urbanization, along with gentrification, have challenged local and national governments as it has been hard to create sustainable policies that keep up with such growth. Bogota’s transformation is therefore undeniable.
Characterized by its narrow-cobbled streets, La Candelaria constitutes an abandoned national heritage for Colombia. The neighborhood is recognized for being part of the foundational center of the city. Additionally, it is still the administrative and cultural epicenter of both Bogotá and Colombia. Following the Decree 263 of 1963, La Candelaria’s architecture is categorized as a national monument. However, the current problematic regarding the street murals revolves around the political conflict between artists and authorities. The legal flexibility in terms of street art has allowed for an overproduction of graffiti that violate private property. Considering the colonial architecture and heritage in the neighborhood, La Candelaria’s street murals present a challenge for the Mayor and City Planning.
Last year, the administration initiated the restoration process for 4,000 units in the neighborhood. The rationale behind this was to revitalize the neighborhood by repairing damps, cracks, fissures, and repainting walls. The perspectives and reactions are divided. It is important to understand that while there has been an increase in street art and murals, there has also been an increase in, what some people consider, vandalism.
Let’s compare these two images:
[The North Star Reports gratefully acknowledges Vilma Vega and Alfredo Camelo for these images]
To a significant percentage of the city’s population, these two images represent opposite realities. The mural shown in the first photograph is often associated with vandalism, abandonment, poverty and criminality. On the other hand, the mural shown in the second photograph is associated with culture, history, art, and tourism. That becomes the main challenge: two opposite realities, one same neighborhood. The fine line differentiating art and vandalism is what changes public perception on this issue.
For homes such as Cecilia Laverde’s, it might be better to maintain the historic plain painting instead of a graffiti they did not participated in in their façade. For city tour guides, it is better to maintain the graffiti around the neighborhood to attract tourism and culture. Ironically, many artists have complained as graffiti tour guides are profiting at the artists’ expense.
Here, I think it is also important to clarify the local government’s position on the issue. Cristina Lleras, who works for the city’s secretary of culture, affirms the intention behind the restoration policies and laws is to “promote and regulate graffiti in the city”. As it can be seen in the following tweet “Bogota is a Graffiti District. Our bet is for a colorful city rich in urban art to enjoy”, Enrique Peñalosa, the city’s Mayor, aims to create a cultural city by supporting what he calls ‘responsible street art’. The effectiveness of this initiative, however, is still questionable. It is unclear what the limits are in terms of street art. What is considered art? What is considered vandalism? What is the definition of ‘responsible street art’?
I do think it is possible to integrate street art as part of La Candelaria. While it is vital to preserve historical architecture, it is also vital to adopt policies that integrate natural changes across the city. One of the ways in which this transformation is possible is by partnering up with struggling artists that do not have access to a gallery representation and incentivize them to create meaningful art in public areas, instead of invading private property. This tactic was implemented in Miami. In 2002, “graffiti artists delighted in the blank, ugly walls of the abandoned warehouses. Soon their art became synonymous with Wynwood.” Through this initiative, the Wynwood Walls became a touristic attraction and a neighborhood asset; they currently draw thousands of people every month, even tourist streetscape tours.
At the same time, it is necessary that the current administration works with the different stakeholders, including artists from different backgrounds, political and social activists as they utilize murals to express their opinion, residents, graffiti tour guides, and city planners. Allowing for participation and holistic planning in this issue will facilitate the implementation and durability of any intended restoration by the Mayor.
Through the adoption of art as an asset for La Candelaria, the sense of belonging and the cultural identity will be reinforced. It is necessary to create citizen ownership and boost the touristic activity in the neighborhood. This will expand the cultural exchange within the community, boost local economic growth, and exemplify social inclusivity, sustainability and innovation.
Ana Maria Camelo Vega serves as a senior editor for The North Star Reports
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu
See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports
The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our guiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five years we have published over 300 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our volunteer student editors and writers come from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). We have an all volunteer staff. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang and NSR Student Editors and Writers. For a brief summary of our history, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm
Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Ellie Swanson and Marin Ekstrom, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu