When it comes to street art, people immediately refer to places like London’s Shoreditch, Brooklyn or Kreuzberg in Berlin. Hardly ever, a city like Bogotá would come to anybody’s mind. However, the Colombian capital has become one of the hot spots for graffiti in recent years and can easily hold up with the before-mentioned behemoths.
While graffiti has always been present in Bogotá like in any other major city, it has come a long way over the years and street art has a moving history in the capital of a country that has been dominated by drugs and violence for many decades.
A dark History but bright Future
For many years, any kind of graffiti was strictly forbidden and the police would punish perpetrators with several years in prison. Sadly, the big turning point was initiated by a horrible event. In 2011, a teenager called Diego Felipe Becerra was caught by the police while illegally spraying onto the walls of an underpass. As he tried to flee, the police scrupulously shot him in the back – all because of some splashes of colour on a wall. The officers tried to cover it up by portraying him as an armed robber and staged the murder as an act of self-defense. Fortunately, they could not get away with it and the whole truth was revealed to the public. In the wake of the uproar in the media and society, the mayor finally decided to decriminalize street art and drastically decrease the punishment on graffiti without permission to minor monetary fines. But instead of just abolishing the extreme sanctions, the city even started to encourage local artists to fill the streets with beautiful art.
However, even after all the changes, graffiti stayed a controversial topic that constantly creates tension between the street art scene and the police. When Justin Bieber was in town in October 2013, he wanted to leave his mark on Calle 26, famous for its murals and the site of the murder on Diego Felipe Becerra. Ironically, the Canadian singer was escorted and protected by the police, the same institution that was responsible for the young street artist’s death just two years earlier. This incident got the entire street art scene furious. The result was a 24 hour protest during which Calle 26 was covered in hundreds of new graffiti pieces to demonstrate that many artists suffer from abuse and persecution by police officers.
How Street Art has changed the Face of the City
Today, locals and visitors alike can enjoy thousands of incredible art pieces scattered over the city. Artists from Colombia and around the world have left their mark, often depicting messages on cultural heritage as well as political statements. In La Candelaria, the city’s old town, you can find the most impressive murals on every turn by renowned names like Guache, Restizio Collective or Boa Mistura. Many house owners even commission street artists to embellish their walls. Like this, thanks to the artists’ codex, the houses will stay clean without being tagged and blighted.
If you would like to discover the amazing murals of Bogotá or of the other street art capitals for yourself instead of trotting behind a group of tourists, simply download the Booee app and get out to explore!