Thursday, 8 January 2015

Appreciating the gutter

The first step in solving a problem, so it is said, is realising you have one. It pretty much stands to reason really. You've got to know what you're trying to fix before you begin to fix it.

Yet, for some things, what one person sees as a problem, or at least feels it is an issue that needs modifying, may not be a cause for concern for another.
Don Fernando's, aka Las Panelas, in La Perseverancia, Bogotá D.C.
One of the best 'beer gardens' going in Bogotá: Fernando's, aka Las Panelas.
Take my well documented like for socialising in Bogotá's working-class barrios, or more specifically speaking La Perseverancia, as has predominantly been the case over the last year or so.

For some expats and well-heeled locals, they see such behaviour as somewhat of a problem. And it's not all to do with safety reasons, where they may have valid reasons on occasions (but where is that not a concern in Bogotá or most major cities?). No, it's more to do with the social aspect of it.
That is to say, as a relatively young (I'll still class myself as such), single guy, I am doing myself a disservice by spending time in such places.

The chief reason being, gauged on the advice from other 'classier' men, is that I won't find appropriate women in these locations. The way they see it, I'm wasting valuable time in the 'quest' to find my true love by frequenting Bogotá's 'dives'.
Rana: Instead of a dart board, most working-class bars and tiendas in Colombia have this game to enjoy.
Rana: What you might call a Colombian dart board.

OK, they have a point. It's unlikely I'm going to find 'the woman I've been looking for' (eh, who?) in the likes of La Perse, especially when the chicas who live there don't appear to socialise much. For there are some fine, if a little cold and flaky, ladies in these barrios. Do note that as regards flaky, there isn't really a class divide in these parts for that particular trait.

Yet, trips to the fancier ends of town don't yield greater results or, as far as I'm concerned, a better quality of woman. Indeed, paradoxically in a way, they often throw up types who are more concerned about money and image than those from the poorer neighbourhoods, with a dollop of arrogance thrown in on top.

Notwithstanding that, the chief reason I continue to hang out in working-class barrios more so than others is that, and this surprises some, I actually enjoy it; a feeling that thus far hasn’t showed signs of dissipating.

Salsa dacning in Fernando's, La Perseverancia, Bogotá D.C., Colombia.
Innocent, uncomplicated fun.
This comes down to the fact that I find the people very friendly. From a La Perseverancia perspective – although it’s not exclusive to there – it has a community vibe to it. It’s what you might call ‘el campo en la ciudad’, 'the countryside in the city'. And being a countryman by birth and at heart, I feel at home in such places in the midst of a chaotic city.

In contrast, in La Candelaría/Las Aguas, where I currently live, it’s a little bit more solo in this regard. A big reason for that is because it’s the city’s tourism epicentre and to have a foreign face here makes it more difficult to become part of the place or an ‘accepted’ local.

Many Colombians in La Candelaría see no difference between a flying visitor and somebody here on a longer-term basis. (It must be said that after over three years floating around the historic city centre, this is now less so the case for me. However the process of assimilation happened much quicker and with more depth in La Perseverancia.)

As for Bogotá’s exclusive locations, well they just tend to leave me cold, and, at times, angry.

‘Romance’ wise? I’m single and enjoying life, things are fine. That ‘single ship’ is rocked on occasions, but there hasn’t been a really strong reason to jump from it just yet.

Now where’s the problem?


  1. Colombia, being one of the world's top income inequality countries, makes it very difficult to socialize, since there are very very few people people on top (and then moving down the "social ladder" who will see others as peers or potential friends. That is sad news. Social atomization is not a good thing. The social fabric suffers and we can see all the consequences on a daily basis here in Colombia (violence, health issues, non-vivid public spaces, you name it). We are social beings. We need more true and significant everyday barrio-life, countryside connections, hence more "true love" finding spots.

    On the issue, I recommend reading The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett.

    Good blog by the way. A permanent reader here.

  2. Cheers for that. Perhaps with time things will change, perhaps ...

    I must check out that book.

    And nice to know I have a few permanent readers ;-) Thanks!

  3. Hey corrigan,I have read a good few of your blogs and I think there great. I am an irish man myself and I am planning on moving to barranquilla to live and teach English. Your blog has been very informative, keep up the good work!

    1. Cheers Tom, always good to get some nice comments at this craic! I've never actually stayed in Barranquilla, just passed through. Do bring plenty of sun screen for there though!