Monday, May 22, 2017

It's Mamoncillo Season!

A mamoncillo and guama vendor on La Ciclovia.
It's mamoncillo season! Those fun fruits which you split open with your teeth or fingernail and suck the jelly off of the seed for a sweet and sour taste are out on the street again.

A mamoncillo ready to be sucked.
Also known as mamón, and more scientifically but less poetically as the Melicoccus bijugatus, mamoncillos are related to the lychee and the maple tree, but look like grapes. You can't eat the whole thing, tho. You crack open the peel and squeeze out the jelly-covered seed, which you proceed to suck and suck. And that's the origin of the name: 'mamoncillo' comes from the verb mamar: to breast feed.

For sale alongside the mamoncillos, you'll often find guama, a huge legume, whose beans are covered with a sweet, white fluff, which you suck off.

Guamas for sale.
If you want to try mamoncillos and guamas, do it soon. Their seasons are short!

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Afro-Colombians Demand to be Heard

Afro-Colombian march down Ave. Septima.
'We support the strike in the El Chocó' region.
 Afro-Colombians, often said to be forgotten Colombians, are demanding attention and resources from the national government. Recently, Afro-Colombian communities on the Pacific coast region have held protests and work stoppages demanding government investment in infrastructure and that the government fulfill commitments made in previous agreements.

The Pacific coast, distant from Colombia's major cities, is an impoverished region wracked by violence from guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and narcotrafficking groups which fight over valuable drug trafficking routes and illegal mines. This weekend, riots and looting took place in the port city of Buenaventura.

Such hair!

Afro heroes.

'The Afro-Colombian people demand that the government fulfill its promises.'

'We demand the law of equal opportunities and no racial discrimination.'

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fight the Government, Get a Residence Visa

Foreign FARC guerrillas may soon have these.

The news that as part of the FARC guerrillas' peace deal with the government, foreigners in the rebels' ranks will be able to get Colombian residence visas is sure to frustrate many of us foreigners here. After all, we suffered thru round after round of red tape and paperwork, as well as paying fee after fee, to obtain and renew our Colombian visas, before finally obtaining an 'indefinite visa' after 5 years' continuous residence.

Of course, during all that time we had to stay on the right side of the law, and can lose the visa because of criminal misconduct.

So, it seems very unfair that people who have spent years aiding and abetting, if not actually participating in, severe crimes like extortion, kidnapping, drug trafficking and even murder, will be awarded visas just because those crimes were supposedly committed for a political purpose - to overthrow that same government which will now award them a visa.

Of course, it's questionable how many foriegn ex-FARC guerrillas will actually want to live in Colombia. After all, their fight was to turn Colombia into a socialist 'paradise', but the country remains decidedly capitalist.

The media estimates there are about 20 foreigners in the FARC, from Europe and other Latin
Tanja Nijmeijer, Dutch citizen and FARC member.
American nations. The most famous of those is Dutch citizen Tanja Nijmeijer, who was part of the guerrillas' negotiating team in Havana, Cuba.

But this absurdity is just one of the smallest of many prices Colombia is paying in order to, hopefully, move closer to peace.

Afterthought: As arbitrary and infuriating as Colombia's visa process is, it was nothing compared to that in Bolivia, where I had to visit the visa office on a near-daily basis for nearly a year, getting everything signed in triplicate and paying notaries and lawyers for this, that and everything. When I finally got my work visa, my job had already ended. More intelligent people just crossed the border every few months, or paid a bribe and got their visa immediately.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

A Peak at ARTBO

Taking a look at ARTBO, in the Estudio Las Nieves.
ARTBO, Bogotá's annual arts festival, is happening this weekend, and I took a look at two of the expositions. One was interesting to me.

Distorted animals and people, by Roger Ballen, in Estudios las Nieves.

'Naturally' by Bertil Nilsson, also  in Estudios las Nieves.

Another 'Naturally', Bertil Nilsson, also  in Estudios las Nieves. Did Mr. Nilsson put himself in the images?

Jua Kali, by Tahir Karmali, also  in Estudios las Nieves.

Imaginative Orthopedics, by Maria Camila Calle, also  in Estudios las Nieves.

Estudios las Nieves is in the nondescript and definitively un-artsy building on the right, in the Las Nieves neighborhood.
The photos below are from the Espacio Odeon, on Ave. Jimenez, near the Museo de Oro bus station. The Espacio Odeon is located in an unfinished, or perhaps crumbling, building.

ARTBO is lending bikes this year.

To see art, it's important to dress in black.

The Espacio Odeon's interior beams.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Wrong-Way Drug War

Erradicating Colombian coca bushes. Less supply increases prices, triggering more plantations elsewhere.
During the Santos-Trump meeting in Washington today, undoubtedly at the top of the agenda was the huge increase in cocaine acreage in Colombia over the last several years.

Colombia's coca leaf crop has more than doubled, reaching record levels.

Conservative politicians and commentators, such as Florida Governor Rick Scott, ex-U.S. ambassador to the OEA Roger Noriega, and a certain right-wing Wall Street Journal columnist, want Colombia to accelerate coca leaf erradication, and in particular restart aerial fumigation with glyphosate.

Coca leaf acreage has spiked in recent years.
(Graphic from Semana magazine.)
Colombia suspended aerial fumigation in mid-2015 following a report which said that glyphosate might cause cancer. Many suspected that the government's real motive was to ingratiate itself with the FARC guerrillas, who late signed a peace deal with the government. Aerial spraying is also controversial because of its impacts on the environment and on food crops. And some analysts say it doesn't produce lasting impact on coca crops, since farmers have found ways to protect their plants, and can quickly replant them, compounding the environmental impact.

But even in the best of scenarios, attacking drug crops is a losing strategy. According to analysts, coca leaf farmers receive barely more than 1% of drug trafficking's profits, meaning that destroying those crops produces little economic impact on the drug economy. Even more importantly, by reducing supply, drug crop erradication raises prices and increases the economic incentive to plant coca. As a result, when they erradicate one farmer's crop, he or another farmer will likely respond by planting someplace else.

Also, drug traffickers' profits rise. Narcos say: 'Thank you Donald Trump!
Florida state Governor Rick Scott send Trump
a letter criticizing Colombian for failing to
erradicate its coca leaf crop.

On the other hand, reducing demand, for example by treating addicts, lowers prices and reduces the economic incentive to plant coca. Yet, Trump has proposed cutting the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by 95%.

Naturally, decriminalizing drugs would reduce many of their negative impacts, but that's not on Washington's policy radar screen.

Afterthought: Santos and Trump also likely agreed to condemn the Venezuelan government for its increasing authoritarianism and many human rights violations. Good enough. So, how does Trump square that with his friendship with Turkish Pres. Erdogan, who is becoming increasingly authoritarian and violates human rights?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Gunadules' Art from the Universe

A  mola with modern influences.

One of Colombia's least-known indigenous peoples, the Gunadules, also known as the Kunas, Cunas o Tules, lived in pre-Columbian times in northern parts of Colombia and the Darien peninsula, but were driven into what is now Panama by conflicts with the Spanish and other indigenous groups. Only a few thousand still live in present-day Colombia.

In 1925, the Kunas rebelled against the Panamanian government and achieved a measure of cultural autonomy - and also adopted a flag with a swastika, which they still use.
Most Gunadules now live in Panama.

The Gunadule women are famous for sewing molas, which have a spiritual and artistic significance. According to Gunadule mythology, a woman traveled through the universe, which is divided into layers or capas, to bring back the secret of the molas.

An exhibition of molas, and other Gunadule artwork, is on now in the Museo de Oro in Bogotá.

When a figure cracks, it loses its spiritual value.

A bird.

Molas come in all colors.

Gunadule indigenous people.

Their flag includes a swastika.

Cultural influences: Old Milwaukee.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours