A graffiti, 100 meters high

 

Surely, when you are on your way to downtown Bogotá (‘El Centro’), you will be able to see a giant mural with the faces of smiling children. You might recognize who the artists are, Toxicómano and Dj Lu’s strokes have been part of the city’s (and the world’s) urban art for over ten years.

 

Here, we want to tell you the story about how we managed to have this work of art #AtTheCenterOfItAll (#EnElCentroDeTodo).

 

It all started when we met Dj Lu in person. His good vibes let us know that we wanted to work together with him, and he immediately noticed that the northern side of our building could have a giant graffiti.

His proposal was to work alongside his friend Toxicómano, with whom he had already worked before and who could give the mural a more complete perspective. We gave them carte blanche to use this wall as a canvas for the message they would like to send to the city.

 

The artists, following their style of sending social and political messages through their work, decided that what they wanted to do was to showcase the faces of children from different parts of the country, so that all Bogotá could remember the diversity that exists in Colombia, and to make the invisible visible, those we forget in our day to day lives. Additionally, they added divisions between the faces with the typical Colombian textile designs.

 

With the design ready, the scariest part was about to come: heights. The graffiti artists would be 100 meters above ground, up on a scaffolding that hung from the top of the building. And yes, they recognized they were scared, because when they paint on the streets they normally have to face the police, but this time it was about being away from the floor by a lot. A challenge!

 

After having completed a course on height safety, they were ready. We were all very excited for them to start working on the mural, we knew the result would be incredible and we couldn’t wait to see it.

 

In theory, it wouldn’t take much time, two weeks at most. Dj Lu and Toxicómano started out painting the entire wall with a base color, and then started placing stencils on the grid, top to bottom (they used 800 sheets for this).

 

When they had already made progress on the two top faces, the Colombian government declared the quarantine due to COVID-19 and we all had to stay at home. Although we knew they were going to finish it, those were unpredictable moments. When would the artists be able to return? Would we have to wait much to see their finished work?

 

The work had to be put on hold for nearly one month. As soon as the Bogotá City Hall gave out the permits to go back to work, the artists climbed back up on the scaffolding to finish it.

 

During the time they spent working on this graffiti, they faced many more unexpected challenges, apart from a global pandemic. One day, there was a power outage, and they were left hanging in the air for an hour, not being able to move the scaffolding. Other days, the wind that comes down from the eastern mountains of Bogotá made them swing more than they expected. And of course, the Bogotá rain showed up more than once.

 

But they finished it! And we now have one more gem in the capital’s urban art scene.

 

In Dj Lu’s words, this work is “a celebration or chant to Colombian diversity”, while Toxicómano thinks that more than a political space, it is a space to inspire hope in the city.

 

A graffiti is not just about scribbling on a wall, as Toxicómano explains: “painting on the street means a lot. Through my work, I can send society a message of empowerment, where we can all contribute, in one way or another. We hope these faces represent anyone”.

In the middle of the whole world situation, it’s impossible not to think about having to make significant changes in all fronts of our lives. Travelling is one of them.

 

Although this topic has been talked about for years, it is currently gaining relevance. The pillars of sustainable tourism are basic: best practices towards the environment (reduce, reuse, and recycle), protecting the place (cultural and natural heritage), and, from the companies perspectives, fostering social and economic benefits for communities.

 

Apart from these measures, there are some others that tourists can specifically put into practice and that also have a great impact in the community they are visiting. We’ll give you a few of them here:

 

Avoid plastic products.

This step is basic: bring your own water bottle anywhere you go. If the water of the city you’re visiting is safe to drink, you can fill it up in your room’s bathroom and go out to experience the city with guaranteed hydration.

Now, if you want to take things a step further, you can also carry your own cutlery and straw. This way, you will significantly reduce waste in the place you’re visiting.

 

Buy and consume local products.

Look at it this way: if you buy local, not only are you contributing economically to the community you’re visiting in a direct way, but you’re also increasing your possibilities of knowing much more about the place you go to.

If you have questions about where to go to obtain truly local experiences, don’t hesitate to ask at the Spotty Hostels front desk.

 

Make sure not to change your towels and sheets on a daily basis.

You can request this change not to be made in your room at the front desk. This way, you avoid the use of more water than what is necessary.

 

Keep your showers short.

We know that taking a long shower after a long day of walking and visiting new places is a pleasure. However, the water and energy use are excessive, and it can even be extremely negative in some cities with water shortage.

 

Don’t take excess flights.

It can take a bit longer, but you could use airplanes to travel to the destination country only and, once there, if you plan to go to several cities, move around in buses or a shared vehicle.

We want your experience in Bogotá to be unique and, especially, authentic, that’s why we’ll let you in on a few secrets you must know if you want to experience the city just like a local would.

 

    • Transportation. This is a topic that is always addressed when talking about Bogotá. It is said that traffic is tough and that transportation is uncomfortable and unsafe, although this is true there’s no need to worry.. The secret is to keep calm, to look after your personal items (not keeping them in sight) and to be well-informed of the route you have to take (you can search for it using apps like Moovit or Transmilenio y SITP).
    • Addresses. Bogotá is divided mainly between calles (streets) and carreras (avenues) identified with numbers, when the street number increases, it means you’re going north, if it decreases, you’re going south. There is an important piece of information that is given to everyone who comes to visit Bogotá: if you see the mountains in front of you, you’re on a calle, if you see them to your side, you’re on a carrera. If you don’t see the mountains… ask someone, you are most likely lost.
    • Gastronomy. If there is something Bogotá can take pride in, it’s its gastronomic scene. There is a wide variety of food types and restaurants to explore here. In every area of the city, you’ll find options to try, the real challenge is not to miss out on all the opportunities. To avoid this, the secret is to research well (some restaurants have their menus online) and follow the advice from foodies who know the scene. That way, you’ll know which restaurants are better, what the prices for each one are, and what their specialty is.
    • The weather. The weather in Bogotá can go from 3 °C to 20 °C in the same day, that’s why we recommend wearing several layers of clothing that you can take off and put back on according to your need. Keeping an umbrella at hand is also essential; you never know when it will start raining.
    • Cultural scene and nightlife. Bogotá has activities every day of the week. The city’s cultural scene is very well-stocked and there are activities for all tastes. Here you can grab dinner, drink a beer, and then dance until dawn in one same night; you can also visit art galleries, watch independent films at the Cinemateca Distrital (City’s Projection Room), go to a karaoke bar or see your favorite bands play live. The secret for being up to date on all the activities happening in the city is to follow the City Hall’s cultural guide, or Instagram accounts that specialize in reviewing activities.

 

  • Free things to do. There’s no reason to worry about spending a lot of money in Bogotá; there are free things you can do here. There’s the open-air, ‘at the park’ music festivals (Rock al parque, Salsa al parque, Jazz al parque, and Colombia al parque), you can also visit the government-run museums on the last Sunday of every month to get free entrance, go for a picnic at El Chicó or Simón Bolívar parks, or you can enjoy the ciclovía (bike routes) every Sunday. To learn more about free things to do you can visit this website.

 

  • Soroche or altitude sickness. Bogotá is located at 2600 meters above sea level, which means there is less oxygen than in other cities with less altitude. Therefore, it is common for those who visit from other parts of the world to experience headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and an elevated heart rate for a few hours. These symptoms are temporary and you will end up getting used to the capital’s altitude.