About the new Inside Loyola



A one-stop-shop of Loyola's most popular and useful Web resources.

A - Z Index



Ciudad Verde

CV Plan Ciudad Verde sign



KATE KASCH: Sunday we took in Bogota. Our guides and translators were Felipe and Patricia, a modern Colombian couple. They met here and have spent time in the US. He, as a Fullbright scholar at Harvard and she, as a youth in Maryland and at graduate school at Northeastern in Boston.

CV Bldgs CV Unit   Playground CVDaycare

They took us to Ciudad Verde, a low income housing project on the outskirts of Bogota to the suburb of Soacha. The drive there took us through Bogota on Sunday morning, calm traffic by Bogota standards, but still a bumpy and nail biting drive. We saw life in Bogota the way it is most often lived and were filled with questions on the hour drive as Felipe diligently provided answers. Most relevant for our journey was this history and purpose of Ciudad Verde. As Bogota has grown quickly over the last 20 years, as the city and country emerge from violence and corruption, they have no space to make room for the tremendous growth. Because many (maybe 40%) of the cities 8MM people do not earn a living through “legitimate jobs” it is very hard to get credit or leases and many find themselves making do as they can. Communities pop up in messy and disorganized patterns as homes are needed and squatters become community establishers, which makes city planning and commuting almost impossible. The people who decide to claim then sell off this land “slum lords” build first floors which they sell and the owners build up to expand the house or create additional room to rent out. These developments look like a cake that may topple over, they are apartments built on apartments and still going up. The roads are frequently unpaved and entrepreneurs line the streets selling what they can. When we cross the boarder to Soacha where the development emerges, the scenery changes. This development, which will eventually house 200,000 families – 200,000 families! – is a low income housing development project with a price cap of USD $45,000. The intention is to provide a house for those who cannot otherwise buy one, but it goes beyond being able to afford the cost. Financing here is different, less rigid, there is flexibility of types of income meaning a street vendor can get it here without having to prove income in the same way someone who works as a bus boy. There are day-cares at no cost, there are schools, playgrounds, walking and cycling paths. There are parking garages and green spaces. Each house or apartment is completely customizable, sold as unfinished spaces to keep the cost low – we wondered how many were living in these still unfinished homes. Even by public housing standards the costs of these spaces are out of most price limits. We were, however, inspired by what we saw, different from Chicago Public housing in so many ways. They are owned by those who live in them, there is pride of ownership. We saw both model units and listened to the sales pitch. The marketing and selling of these spaces was very good, providing a gateway to each prospective buyer of the life they could have. Pictures of the perfect Colombian families, impeccable design taste, you could almost smell the baking cookies. The developers were so welcoming to us, they took us to see a unit that was ready to be occupied. We admired this transparency and while the reality is different, we were pleased to see that it wasn’t impossible to see that they were successful in implementing the plan, maybe without the cookies. On the way back we drove through a very poor part of Bogota, Bosa. Felipe had wanted to show us a more dramatic differentiation of how much of Bogota does live. All of them unable to afford the low income homes we had just seen. Street vendors, old buildings never properly built. Trash and stray dogs everywhere. Roads, Felipe explained, that had been planned 50 years ago and never built. This we learned, was the second poorest stratification of Bogota’s class system. What does the poorest look like?


Riding the bus back through the city, we discussed this common idea we find in the world of North vs South. We thought of Berlin vs Munich, Chicago’s North vs South side. There seem to be parts of these places that ignore or avoid what they find in the south. As we drove, the city became increasingly comfortable and hospitable by our American standards.

I asked Patricia if she felt safe in Bogota. She paused and delved into a description of the cloud of paranoia that surrounds her and the city all the time. She said it’s not been that long since it was very dangerous and that she is always looking over her shoulder. When I asked “have you ever been robbed or attacked?” she paused and said “no actually” then, “once I think I had my cell phone stolen.” She looked at me and said “the violence will be with us forever.” I hope not.

On a positive note of discovery, we continue to learn more about ourselves and each other. Conversations are punctuated with, “I could never do this as well as you do” and immediately followed up with “are you kidding, I could never do that like you do.” A consistent revelation of the immense pride, trust and respect for each other which is, in the end, what got us into this incredible experience in the first place. We must pause and reflect on our good fortune, of not only material and quality of life, but experience and company as well.

Felipe and Patricia joined us for lunch, nay took us for lunch, to Fulanitos. They served dishes that are popular in Cali, their favorite. They ordered almost everything on the menu, and fear not, we ate with abandon. The conversation and food put distance between our lives and what we had seen that morning. Our walk back through Zona Rosa had us all jumping excitement. There were bars, shops, restaurants, and two Bogota Beer Companies! We quickly made an agreement that we would have some fun there and decided to return later in the evening. We walked home through stretches of beautiful homes with vegetation growing on roofs, off balconies, down brick buildings. We saw children playing and dogs taking themselves for walks, their owners strolling a dozen paces back. Returning to the hotel we vowed naps, but ten minutes of lying down left us all wanting the sun back. We came to a coffee shop where we currently find ourselves excitedly discussing our day and dissecting our scribbled notes, where once again, we return our somber thoughts to what we have seen.


F&P&Group Felipe, Kate, Aggeliki, Patricia, Lisa, Justine and Greg

Last night we ventured to the Bogota Beer Company for a few cervezas at the end of a good day. I wonder if I’ve ever seen a group of people so happy. To quote Justine “I haven’t laughed that hard in years.” We reminisced the day and raised our glasses to the fact, for the fiftieth time, that we were actually here! Somehow this continues to be hard to believe. So much writing, so much reading, so much discussion, so much support from Professor Shultz and friends, and so much convincing our families has led us to Bogota and we can’t believe it. A very fun night had by all, as our giddiness carried us until 10 pm when we could function no more.

We keep saying “today let’s do the touristy stuff” but our education and exploration takes us off the beaten path and into the heart of the city. So we say “we’ll try that tomorrow” and so we will.

Add a Comment


(will not be displayed) (required)