Memories of Bogota: a mugging, bored riot police and cocaine on the pavement

Occasionally, when I don’t have time to write a blog, I have been known to quickly copy-and-paste from my old e-diaries.

So…

In July 1983, I was in Bogota, Colombia. this is from my diary written at the time:


Bogota in 1983

Bogota, 1983

A 13-hour flight from Gatwick, London, to Bogota via San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Caracas (Venezuela).

Half an hour after arriving in Bogota, I went for a walk on one of the main streets with an Englishman. As we were crossing a main junction, he was about three steps behind me.

I heard something, turned round and saw a startled look in his eyes and a dark-suited man on either side of him. As I turned, the two other men ran away, carrying the wallet he had had on a thong round his wrist. He told me that, as soon as they grabbed him, he let them take the wallet in case they stabbed him.

In the afternoon, I went to Bolivar Square where a potentially joyous celebration of Simon Bolivar’s 200th anniversary included riot police with steel helmets, plastic shields and tear gas canisters on their belts. These police were hard-faced men in their twenties, kicking their heels in boredom under the oppressive sunshine, hoping something would happen to perk up their day. There was an armoured water cannon up a side street.

One of four Wimpy Bars in what seemed Bogota’s main street

Bogota, 1983

There are four Wimpy Bars in the main street – presumably they are just using the same logos rather than actually being part of the British hamburger franchise chain.

In the evening, six of us went to Hamburger King where we mis-read the menu.

We assumed Te Frios meant French Fries. We got iced tea.

The evening news broadcast on TV Mundo played light-hearted entertainment music over its opening montage of headlines and top stories – including film of a dead body being pulled out of a morgue drawer and a close-up of President Reagan speaking. To jazz up a report on the Polisario guerillas in Africa – showing tanks, armed infantry etc – the news broadcast used the James Bond theme.

On Sundays, some of the roads in Bogota are closed to allow jogging, skating etc.

With another Briton, I walked down the main street. We kept off the pavement so we were safely away from shops, alleys and doorways because we were getting dodgy stares from dodgy men.

Scooters in Bogota, 1983

Innocent children’s scooters in Bogota, 1983

We were approached by several dubious smiling middle-aged men with hard eyes selling “emeralds” and there was a large crowd standing round a man who was sitting at a table in the middle of the pavement apparently selling packets of cocaine as children whizzed by on home-made wooden scooters.


I took very few photographs in Colombia in 1983. It seemed wise.

Bogota, 2006

Bogota in 2006

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Filed under Colombia, Drugs

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