In a big city
Walking through the rush hour in Bogota two hours ago, I was inspired by the experience to try and somehow capture some of the emotions I felt, put them into words. I write this as I drink another perfectly crafted cup of coffee at Art y Pasion cafe.
A black bubble of smoke billows from the buseta (a type of bus, a sort of privately-distributed informal public transport system) and a passerby coughs a harsh cough. I try to hold my breath, waiting for the cloud of smoke to dissipate, but after five more paces I give up, another buseta coughs another cloud of smoke and I let it win.
It’s rush hour in Bogota, 17:42 to be exact, and I just got off TransMilenio (official, government-run hybrid system that acts like a train system but uses buses). It transports millions of people everyday and it really did feel like there was at least a million people inside that bus I took from Chapinero. Tired, dressy white-collar workers squeeze through the bus door, together with all types of city-dwellers, all wanting to get on that bus and rush home. They frantically push through as though it’s their last chance, so I battle upstream and “¡Disculpe” my way out of the bus. Thousands of facial expression are molded into one neutral gaze that shows neither pleasure nor discomfort, because in our heads we’re all already at our destinations and this temporary state of transportation doesn’t even exist.
Escaping a TransMilenio platform I walk out to the Plaza de San Victorino. Hundreds of street vendors shout their prices to attract the attention of a passerby, a last customer before they pack up and wheel their carts away, still full of empanadas, fruits, chinese toys and plastic swimming pools. Three stray dogs in the middle of the plaza ponder with a deep gaze wondering where they can find a bone. Keeping a fast pace, I remember to look up above the mass of rushing people, cars, buses, motorcycles and bicycles, and I see in front of me The Primary Cathedral of Bogota. It stands quietly still and looks down at us with it’s majestic, antique towers, keeping secret of events that happened here. Only a few random pink and blue dots of paint reveal sings of recent protests, but they fade out in the view of a mountain and cloudy sky behind it, that make a postcard backdrop for the Cathedral.
Despite the city’s grit, chilly weather and numb mass of people, a landmark rises from the ground with such grace. It tell a story, a story that is unique to its place and time and is available to anyone who wants to know. It doesn’t impose, it just stands tall to be discovered, whether by a tourist with a camera, a student couple making out on the stairs, a politician who caused the protest or perhaps an old lady with a cane who strolls slowly by reminiscing about a day she met her husband here long ago.