Thursday, May 21, 2015

Andrés Arango's Wry Eye

A Coca Cola bottle plays the role of Llorenti's famous flowerpot.
Andrés Arango's paintings reflect his wry view of Colombian society: Llorenti's famous flowerpot, symbol of the revolution, converted into a Coca Cola bottle; plastic bottles used to keep a bather floating; hangers on on the backs of buses. 

arango's perspective, which he says mixes in elements of magical realism, is on display now in the Gabriel Garcia Marquéz cultural center. In his telling, Colombia is a zany place, semi-disfunctional, with a sense of humor about itself. 

Hanging on on the back of a bus.

Which goes faster? Which goes the right way?
Riot police wield shields decorated by rioters' paint balls.
Take that!
Take a walk, won't you?

A family which hangs together rides together. 

Short circuit?
You're better off riding a donkey.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nudists and a Nude in the National Park

Today, these folks with the Nudism and Naturist Association of Bogotá were in the Parque Nacional asking the public what we thought of nudism. I think it's great, for those who want to do it, but it's obviously not for everybody. While nudism isn't big in Colombia, the Santa Marta/Tayrona Park region has several nude beaches.

Is nudism natural? Scientists believe that at least some humans have been wearing some sorts of clothing for close to 200,000 years - at least. That's far longer than humans have been doing, for example, agriculture, which I think most of us consider to be natural.

Just a few meters from the nudism activists, a young woman was standing practically nude, her body colorfully painted, as part of a university art project. The nudists seemed a bit embarrassed by her, hurrying to point out that theirs was an unrelated activity - perhaps because they're in favor of nudism, but not exhibitionism.

For her part, the students were doing a project for their Social Communication course at the Universidad Cooperativa. And nudism is unquestionably a form of communication that's very social.

Can a naked, painted woman be art? they asked me. Sure, she can. Of course, anything at all can be art these days.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cosplay in the Parque Nacional

Who are these guys?
Today, these folks were showing off their costumes, of Star Wars, Dr. Who, Sailor Moon and other stuff which I either couldn't identify or understand, probably because of generational issues and my lack of a television.

Straight out of Dr. Who.
Dragon Ball???


No lack of photographers. 

We are Sailor Moon. 
Star Wars is back!
Who is this guy?
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Friday, May 15, 2015

Where Stones Become Jewels

Working the emeralds.
This afternoon, I visited one of the many emerald workshops around El Rosario Plaza. S mall place in a nondescript building, it turns out stones worth from a few bucks to thousands of dollars. Some of the products of this dark little den may later decorate the bodies of royalty and millionaires.

The most valuable stones from Bogotá's emerald district go to Japan, Hong Kong, New York and Europe. Like Colombia's coffee, the lower-quality stones stay here.

Emerald miner and trader Angel Torres, who showed me the workshop, told me that, even after centuries of exploitation, only a tiny percentage of Colombia's emeralds have been mined (but how can they possibly know?), so the industry has lots of life left in it. Torres also said that one large, foreign-owned mine has tunnels extending 4 or 5 kilometers underground. Talk about claustrophobia!
Rough emeralds, which will be slected, cut and polished.

Cut and polished emeralds.

Down below on Plaza Rosario two men study stones in what is the city's informal, open-air emerald market. 

Because of their pallid color, these stones will never be worth much.
The emerald cutters' building on the east side of Plaza Rosario.
Interested in emeralds? You can visit the workshop and learn about the stones by contacting Angel Torres at 312-752-9544 or angball40 (at)

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Adiós to Those Old Buses?

A SITP bus and private buses on Carrera 10 in central Bogotá.
Once again, Bogotá's city government has promised to retire those old buses which do so much to pollute our air and turn the streets chaotic.
Can it be true? 'End of the hegemony of the old public transport companies.'
And let's hope that they actually fulfill their word this time, even tho they've been promising the end of these buses since the 1990s.

'¡Urgent, Petro Deceives!' A sign on a bus protests
the old buses' phase-out.
Unfortunately, however, lots of things could happen between now and then, including protests by the bus industry, which in the past have shut down the city; If they can't reverse the law, the bus owners might find a way around it, thru bribery or deception. According to a recent court ruling, during past campaigns in which owners were paid to junk the aged, highly-polluting buses, some bus owners managed to get paid for junking the same bus several times - sometimes without actually junking it at all. In other cases, bus owners have sent the bus's shell to the junkyard, while placing the old, polluting engine into another bus, where it continues belching smoke.

And, according to news reports, the city plans to integrate hundreds or thousands of those old buses into the SITP system, in which they will be repainted, undergo a name change and continue belching smoke.

A common sight: An old bus belches smoke on Calle 26.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

The Suicide Letter of Tulua

In the 1950s, Tulua, Valle del Cauca, was a dangerous town for Liberal Party members: Right-wing pajaros' were assassinating Liberals amid long-running political violence.
León María Lozano
paramilitary groups called '

In July, 1955, a group of nine Liberal Party leaders took a daring and desperate step: They sent letters to dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla and El Tiempo newspaper denouncing the killings and blaming the most feared pajaro of all: León María Lozano, a devout Catholic who was apparently only a humble cheese seller who never missed 6 a.m. mass.

'We are convinced...that, as long as the central government does not decide to implacably punish the sinister people who sow terror...the painful chain of assassinations and depredations will continue.'
The fatal letter.
The letter went on to ask why the killing continued: The answer, it said, 'was very simple:' 'Because those obscure personalities which should be in a penitentiary paying for their horrendous crimes continue walking freely and tranquilly along the streets of this city.'

The consequences were tragic. One by one, the letter's signers were assassinated, while survivors fled to other parts of Colombia. The episode was immortalized in a novel by Gustavo Alvarez Gardeazábal, later made into a movie, called 'El Condor No Entierra Todos Los Días,' and the letter became known as the Suicide Letter of Tulua. Last year, a non-fiction book about the incident by Omar Franco Duque was published under that name.

The Suicide Letter returned to the news recently because its last surviving signer, Ignacio Cruz Roldán, died last week. He had survived being shot in the face in 1957.

The pajaro León María Lozano had powerful friends and escaped punishment.

The long-running inter-party violence, which had surged after the April 1948 assassination of populist leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, declined but ended only in the late 1950s, when the Liberal and Conservative parties agreed to share power in the Frente Nacional.

Afterwards, however, came guerrilla and narco-violence which continues today.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours