|A watchful cop along Jimenez Ave.|
|A bicycle tourist with friendly La Candelaria locals.|
One alternative is to stay in the upscale Zona Rosa and commute thru the traffic jams to La Candelaria. But, up there, near the Hard Rock Cafe and Bogotá Beer Company, you'll not only pay U.S. prices, but also run a different risk - forgetting that you traveled to Latin America at all.
The good news is that, judging from recent meetings, the neighborhood's hoteliers, police and other officials are confronting the problem and taking concrete steps to resolve it. After all, La Candelaria is unique and irreplaceable: it houses Colombia's capital, most of Bogotá's historical sites and many of its cultural attractions.
|The mayor makes her case.|
|Hostel owners: we've got a problem.|
"That's got to make a difference in the crime numbers," he said.
|Police pat down in La Plaza del Chorro: Security or harrasment?|
|A mobile police station |
on Plaza del Periodista
At the meeting, the mayor also read complaints from La Candelaria residents about some hostels, including loud partying at night, drunken backpackers yelling in the street, foreigners smoking pot in their doorways and other antics. La Candelaria has a growing number of upscale hotels, but most of the lodgings here cater to backpackers. That's great, but visitors (and hostel owners) should be sensitive to the fact that La Candelaria is also a neighborhood - one of the things which gives it its charm. La Candelaria has many universities - and thousands of students, who presumably need to study at night. The neighborhood also has thousands of residents, many of them older, who've lived here for decades and who find this new phenomenon of tourism invading their neighborhood strange and even scary.
"The backpackers come for partying, sex and drugs," a group of neighbors wrote in a letter.
Sadly, they're right about many tourists - which has never made sense to me. Colombia is a wonderful country, with its share of problems, but also an interesting history, tremendous culture, spectacular natural areas, wonderful people, a language to be learned, and on and on. Spending your time here drunk or drugged means doing an injustice both to Colombia - the cocaine industry funds violent groups which have done untold harm to this nation - and to yourself. If you're into hedonism, why not just stay home, where it's surely available, and you save yourself the airfare and visa hassles?
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours