Saturday, 30 November 2013

Fighting for 'Free Bogotá'

We value and like to be able to demonstrate our freedom, as relative and limited as it sometimes feels*. On a daily basis, this manifests itself by us walking to and through public places when we want to do so; that is, not being concerned an individual or individuals may potentially violently interrupt us.
The scene of the 'attack'
Leafy suburbs -- eh, not quite

In many places across the world this tends not to be a concern anyway. However, in some parts, minding your own business does not automatically mean you’ll be left to your own devices. And as much as we have wandered Bogotá’s streets at times when, and places where, most others wouldn’t dare, the fact can’t be hidden that each time we do arrive home safely, specifically at night-time, there is a sense of relief. A victory for the common, law-abiding man you might say.

Considering our mentality in this regard, thankfully, luckily even, we can count on one hand the number of times when ‘dodgy’ incidents happened to us on the streets here (for details of earlier occurrences, see However, it would be remiss of us to use the expression that ‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself’. For in a number of neighbourhoods (barrios) in this city, and the exact locations can be quite fluid, there exist people who will attack you for the simple reasons that they can; you are different; and/or they feel you have something they want – money, a mobile phone or whatever.

It must be said at this point that in certain parts of the last city we lived in for any considerable length of time, namely North Belfast, such perils were also in existence. Again though we often flagrantly tossed those aside whilst making our way home on foot at night.

To make light of these real threats is clearly not a wise thing to do. We don’t; but there is a conflict between us watching out for a safety and our belief in being able to walk the streets without compromise.

The standard defence mechanism we apply whenever we feel threatened is to to play ‘crazy’; in other words just try and blend in or at least look as equally as deranged and/or intimidating as the person/persons who we secretly wish we didn’t have to pass by. However, our most recent Bogotá late night/early morning incident has given us some more food for thought – we’re pretty much at the banquet stage in this regard now.

This time around there was less an element of opportunism and more a statement of intent in the deeds of the three assailants, at least one of whom was armed with a knife. Although our ill-advised decision to cross the street, parting company momentarily with our two companions, was surely a help in pushing our wannabe muggers into action.
Wrong Way's new 'hood'
'Wrong Way' Country

That they left empty handed (we think we just lost our mobile phone in the commotion rather than it being stolen) was down to our fellow Irish friend’s handy work with his extendible metal baton; something he rarely leaves home without and considering he is another man who likes to feel ‘free’ enough to walk home, a smart move. The idea is to give the holder peace-of-mind and most people hope they never have to use it. On this occasion it certainly was needed and it got a good run out, more than making up for its relatively small cost. We’ve taken note.

Nonetheless, we also realise that had we been on our own that night, or at least certainly minus our friend plus baton, the outcome could have been a whole lot different and much nastier. Throw in the fact that all this happened pretty close to our new abode in Bogotá (La Perseverancia, next to La Macarena) and we would be quite stupid not to take evasive action in the future. Okay, the attackers may have become the attacked that night, but there’s a fair chance they’ll remember our ‘foreign’ faces before we recognise theirs.

Continuing to mix, socialise and do business in the less affluent part of our new barrio – that being the infamous La Perseverancia – as is our wont, might help somewhat. We’re beginning to be known and recognised in what we feel is a positive way. Yet the phrase ‘trust no one’ could have been coined for these parts in dealing with the locals; and we do our best to abide by it.

Perhaps that’s another reason we continue to rely on ourselves to get home safely. Something of a victory for ‘freedom’ each time we do. Or is that just plain old foolhardiness?

*For a related article on 'freedom', see


  1. Be careful with pulling out a baton, since, as you well know firearms are widespread in Colombia and if an assailant is faced with a beating from a baton they may just feel theartened enough to pull the gun that they didnt want to initially expose,.

    1. We hear you! Just have to be more careful in future, although that alone mightn't suffice...

  2. I hear ya and often have the same thoughts regarding walky freely in a city I know well. Only if people continue to do so will a city ever get safer. Safety in numbers and all.

    A buenas noches goes a long way as does keeping a respectable distance from potential trouble. Which also allows you more time to implent a quick run if required!

    1. Well James; yea, it's nice to think that we can walk in areas without fear. Alas, other people have different ideas. Indeed we're discovering that where the latest incident described above happened, it could be one of the worst areas in Bogotá. One must be careful...

  3. If you keep sticking your chin out there, some one will eventually connect!

    1. That's for sure; we've been doing our best to retract it of late!

  4. This piece got a few people 'talking' on LinkedIn:

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