Monday, September 25, 2006

"Mira, Papi! Muchos Gringos!

Ciclovia is Bogota's family day.

The city blocks off 120 km of city streets for the exclusive use of bicycles, walkers, roller skaters, and families.

On this particular Sunday, Ciclovia was joined by international activists from the Toward Carfree Cities VI conference.

As we rode througth the modern city and the riverside bike trails we did not pass unnoticed. A very young girl riding with her father pointed at the unusual foreign horde on bikes and pronounced, "Mira, Papi! Muchos Gringos!"

While certainly true, this must have been an unusual sight for a child growing up in a country that has only recently been declared safe to visit by international travel agents. Though you would never know this by reading the US State Department's travel advisories. In the official US propaganda, Colombia is still a country to be avoided by travellers due to rampant kidnappings in the countryside, and brutal robberies in the cities.

We saw none of this. What we witnessed was a proud country that is reaching out to the world. The Colombian people are some of the most welcoming I have ever met overseas.

One taste of the fresh squeezed jugo de watermelon and banana after 50km of bike riding through Bogota and you know you are in Heaven.

Thank you to Colombia and the wonderful people here who are showing the world how inequality in mobility can be fixed with a firm commitment to transporation justice and for acting on the belief that public spaces, lively plazas for the community to gather, and car-free pedestrian zones are the building blocks that create civilization.

Viva Colombia! You have so much to teach the so-called "First World."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post about Bogota and Colombia! Its so hurtful and frustrating when people think of Colombia as a third world country full of drug cartels and guerrillas. even tho we do have some problems like every other country, we also have some wonderful things. thank you fro your kind words and come back soon.