16 April 2007
First impressions of Bogota
At first sight, the airport and the town with its skyescrapers did not seem to have changed in these past 30 years! But, of course, it hád changed: the many beggars, the little boys offering to guide you or to take care of your car and the fathers and mothers risking their lives in the traffic for selling Marlboro cigarettes, have been replaced by many seguridad-men, policemen and, at the luxurious Tequendama hotel, even by MP’s with automatic rifles. The groups of indians in roano’s selling cow skins, slowly walking through the parc, have been replaced by elegant couples sitting on the grass like in the Parc de Luxembourg in Paris. It seems as if town life has segregated in two worlds, the world of the street where fast driving taxi’s and motorcycles, schoolchildren and business people are kept in control by the seguridad and police and the world behind barred doors and windows of empty-looking houses that appear full of busy people unseen from the street. We experienced this when entering the house of the dutch “Tropenbos” foundation, which appeared to be an office, museum and school at the same time. The Plaza de Bolivar, where we waited in 1978 for half an hour to get a taxi, was now a busy place full with photographers, pigeons and yellow taxi’s.
Thanks to my colleague Antoine Cleef (University of Amsterdam, Inst. For Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics) we could stay in Hotel Suamox, close to the house of the Tropenbos Foundation. There we were cordially received by Carlos Rodriguez (who showed us around and told us about the various projects), by Rosa Miriam Diaz (who arranged our flight to Leticia), by Don Hector (el chofer, who helped us to get money from the cajera automatica) and by René Boot, the present-day director. Many thanks to you all for your help!