You don’t need an excuse to visit Bogota. It’s thriving, eclectic, energetic, with good food and at reasonable prices.
But, it so happened I had a reason to visit. My scope was in flux, but I was visiting to talk with the fine women of Radio Bestial and discuss how to use Dérive app in their work, as part of an arts festival at Espacio Odeon.
One of Radio Bestial’s planned walks passed by the “Emerald Center”, where, indeed emeralds are traded. On one of their scouting trips, they overheard paramilitary talking about the necessity of perhaps killing some competitors. So, yes, Bogota feels safe, but perhaps the nasty bits have been externalised.
As far as art went, little did I know that not only was Odeon throwing an extended party, that is, festival, a bunch of other, major, arts festivals were dotting the Bogota events calendar at the same time, meaning my being able to secure a lovely and cheap hotel in the center of town was a fluke, if pleasant.
This included an excellent event at a former hospital for up-and-coming artists where none of the art was to be sold for more than a million (of pesos).
Architecturally, Colombia in general, and Bogota in particular, has a lot to offer. Bogota is home to one of the earliest examples of South American Brutalism, and, in general, Colombian architects appear to be more experimental, and interesting, in their plans and implementations, making walks around the city a feast for those keen on looking up.
One fascinating construction is BD Bacatá, a crowdfunded skyscraper which also is the tallest in the country (though not for long), and a modern brutalist delight of glass, aluminium and concrete. 3800 Colombians pooled their money to start the building of the first Colombian skyscraper in 35 years, though construction ran into financial troubles and the building is still unfinished.
One of the building’s lower floor’s is home to a gym, Smart Fit, the same I frequent at home in Brazil. Recently, Smart Fit announced that their ‘plan black’, which allows me to visit every Smart Fit in Brazil (save for three very fancy ones), now applies to all Smart Fits in Latin America.
So, I went.
Getting into a Smart Fit requires a turnstile to scan your fingerprint. If you visit a branch that’s not ‘your’ branch, you have to first enter your CPF (sort of like a social security number) into a machine, which then retrieves your biometric data such that you can also enter this other branch by having your fingerprint scanned.
Also in Colombia, this worked flawlessly. Except that this also meant that my biometric data was now seamlessly transmitted across international borders, with the only thing necessary being my CPF, which essentially is public information.
I’m quite sure I did not give explicit permission for my biometric data to travel across borders. And, does that mean that, say, the Mexican government can request my fingerprints from a Smart Fit in Mexico, if they only know my CPF, even if I have never been to Mexico?
A short note on Empanadas
Colombian street food is awesome. The ‘stuffed potatoes’ are perhaps my favourite, but the empanadas are awesome too. But, the best, is possibly the sauces that come with the food. A self respecting food cart or hole in the wall might have up to a dozen different sauces to make your day.