Social Issues

Graffiti art, sports helping transform low-income Bogota neighborhoods

By Jorge Gil Angel

Bogota, Aug 27 (EFE).- Mirador and Paraiso, two low-income neighborhoods of Colombia’s capital perched at the top of a steep hill, have long been viewed warily by those in the Bogota savanna below.

But now young people in those districts are looking to shatter that negative perception through initiatives that promote its inhabitants’ talents in the areas of graffiti art and extreme sports.

Although it is possible to reach those neighborhoods from Bogota proper via a long and car journey, the travel time was cut considerably thanks to the December 2018 inauguration of a gondola lift system known as TransMiCable.

And that new means of transportation also has enabled local residents to promote tourism in those areas of Ciudad Bolivar, a locality on Bogota’s south side that has a reputation for violence and gang activity.

Luisa Sabogal is a member of Bogota Colors, an agency created by young people in those neighborhoods who have spread graffiti art throughout Ciudad Bolivar and organize tours of that part of Bogota.

She said the agency was founded to break “the silly stigma” perpetuated by those who believe they will be robbed and witness people doing drugs on the street if they venture there.

“We saw the need to show the other side of Ciudad Bolivar … We put a group together to showcase skateboarding, parkour (an obstacle-passing sport with roots in military obstacle-course training), freestyle BMX and all the sports” practiced in that district, Sabogal said.

The colorfully painted walls of homes in Ciudad Bolivar and its impressive graffiti art are a point of pride in Mirador and Paraiso, including a mural of 2019 Tour de France winner and Bogota native Egan Bernal that was spray-painted by May Rojas, co-leader of Bogota Colors along with Sabogal.

“As an artist, my mural style is realism … although I’m departing a bit from daily life … and I’m creating a bit of distortion through movement,” the young man told Efe.

Besides the image of Bernal, Rojas also has spray-painted the portraits of community leaders, Colombian icons such as late singer Joe Arroyo and even his own mother, whom he had promised to immortalize through his art.

Both Sabogal and Rojas see the potential for creating new opportunities for an area whose walls had been gray and devoid of color or artwork, noting that the arrival of tourists can stimulate the local economy by generating more business for restaurants and stores.

“We made the murals with our budget … it’s been an arduous process, but it’s had an impact both for local inhabitants and for foreigners and people who come to learn about our territory,” Sabogal said.

Sports also are a big part of the community improvement initiative, an effort that has included the installation of parks for practicing skateboarding, parkour and skating.

One beneficiary has been Jack Corredor, a young man who turned to sports as a means of escaping a difficult home environment.

“What we’re looking to do is create a school of parkour, of skateboarding. We as athletes have been all in on this,” said Corredor, who has been coaching young hopefuls in those sports.

The 23-year-old hailed the support of Bogota Colors, saying they are helping him devote himself full time to sports and prevent other youth from falling into vices. EFE


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