In July I described how Life is But a Dream in La Candelaria. That post shows how hiring one private security force of aggressive baton-wielders can purge a neighborhood of undesirables and bring back a vibrant party scene.
Sunday night I saw the security in action. FYI – Sundays in Bogota are the hardest days in dealing with beggars and crackheads, because Latinos spend Sundays with family. Most businesses are closed. The streets are dead. So the junkies and drunks are all starving and shaking because there’s less money to beg or steal. They’re all over anybody they see in the street.
Sunday night I was drinking at a liquor store with friends. I recognized a member of the security force. He’s a stout black fella who always smiles. He was drinking a beer, smiling as always when I greeted him. We exchanged pleasantries when a dirty wino came to the doorway with his hand out speaking bazucero jibberish.
Stout didn’t lose a second. His smiling face turned grave. He held up his hand with three fingers extended up in front of Wino’s face. I didn’t hear exactly what he said but it was something like “Tres segundos para que se vaya.” You got three seconds to get the fuck out of here.
And before he even counted down to two, Stout kicked Wino in his ass. A proper boot right in the ass and Wino’s completely surprised as to what the hell’s going on. Stout got pissed and slapped him in the back of the head, pushing him down the street. Another security guard in the liquor store got his baton out and backed Stout up. Wino looked ready to cry when Stout pushed him further down the street and out of my sight.
A few minutes later Stout came back smiling. I bought his next beer.
Sound harsh? Understand how different La Candelaria was when I first moved to Bogota. The other security force was only around during the day. After nightfall the streets were crawling with robbers and crackheads, and not much else. Read The Suit in La Candelaria to understand how the streets were deserted at night, or Christopher K’s piece on how to survive in La Candelaria, or of course how I got mugged on Easter Sunday. Now people party in the streets all night.
No matter how dreamy La Candelaria is, it’s still downtown Bogota. Some things will never change. A girl I know was mugged in the Plaza de Periodistas Thursday night at 8pm. She and a female friend went to the ATM by the Las Aguas Transmilenio station. When they were walking back they were surrounded by a guy and a girl duo, each with knives. They lost 100,000 pesos plus all of the friend’s plastic.
It’s a dream, but it’s still downtown Bogota.
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