Opinion – Zeca Camargo: Trying to understand Bogotá

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Opinion – Zeca Camargo: Trying to understand Bogotá

Imagine the feeling of stepping on a floor made from the molten weapons used by rapists. No, you cannot imagine what this experience is because even I, who have been where this walk is possible, cannot describe it here.

The most interesting place I came across on my recent visit to Bogotá is called Fragmentos Espaço de Arte e Memória. It’s a counter-monument, a word invented by the fantastic Doris Salcedo, one of Colombia’s greatest contemporary artists, to punctuate the armed conflict in her country.

Such a tragic period in Colombian history did not deserve a monument, she argued. But if there’s nothing to celebrate, there’s a lot to remember in this almost empty space.

In the ruins of an old house, in the Candelária district, where the historic center of Bogotá is located with its excellent museums, Salcedo erected glass walls defining large empty spaces and corridors. In the larger rooms, temporary exhibitions and a space to watch a film with testimonies of victims of sexual abuse during the armed conflict.

And it is these women who made the molds for each of the metal tiles, fused together with the weapons seized after the peace was celebrated. It was thick paper, irregularly crumpled by these victims, which printed on the metal the design of the floor on which the visitor walks.

None equal to the other. Just as the story of each of these women is different from one another. And it’s impossible not to think about it by visiting Fragments.

The dialogue between the modern structures and the broken outline of the old house has everything to do with the contrasts we see in the streets of Bogotá and with the city’s own history. It was not the first time I had visited her, and I confess that I went with the expectation of understanding her better.

In this sense, I left there frustrated. I loved this trip: the arts, the food, the people. I even want to write more about her a little later. But I couldn’t properly absorb its contrasts, its beauties, its rhythm.

La Candelária is at the top of Bogotá and the traffic there is hellish. It is understood: imagine a city like Ouro Preto receiving cars in the volume of a megalopolis of almost 10 million inhabitants.

Few people live there downtown. The old buildings, almost always in the majestic Spanish Baroque, function as restaurants, museums (these, responsible for a vibrant contemporary architecture), souvenir shops or tight jewelry stores, which compete for tourist dollars with their beautiful Colombian emeralds.

Along the winding roads that connect the center to other parts of the city, more popular housing appears, invariably built in a red brick that colors the urban outline. In the lower regions, nobler areas with enigmatic names, such as Zona G (where good gastronomy is concentrated) and Zona T (of more sophisticated commerce).

There are also luxury apartments and a good part of urban life, which you can enjoy, with relative safety, even on foot. The best art galleries are also nearby.

Stubborn, I faced the inconvenience of the air from 2,600 meters high, in this fruitless search for the essence of the city. I’ve talked to amazing people, from the curators of the great art fair that takes place in October to the new chefs who are changing the face of local restaurants.

But all I managed to piece together were fragments. Which, of course, reconnected me with Doris Salcedo’s space. Perhaps some things must remain unsaid. Just felt.

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