Sunday, June 30, 2013

Scenes from Bogotá's 2013 Gay Pride Parade

Bogotá's annual Gay Pride Parade had its usual color and flamboyance. It also came at a time of advance for gay rights. Two weeks ago, the notaries introduced new same-sex unions, which provide such couples with most rights of marriage, altho they don't use the word 'matrimony'.

As always, I wonder whether in-your-face spectacles like today's do the gay community any favors in the view of the conventional majority. After all, if sexual minorities want to be seen as neighbors, relatives and co-workers who just happen to have a different sexual orientation, this sort of spectacle doesn't help.

Paraders satirized the Catholic Church and hard-line conservative Ordoñez, who opposed expanded rights for gays.

Biblical matrimony?

Catholic Church: Drop the homophobia and hypocrisy!

Free people, secular countries.

I'm hetrosexual and in support.

A man representing conservative procurador Ordoñez leads the enslaved by the neck.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Marcos' One-Man 30-Second Circus

Sure, I could do that myself.
Marcos, from Uruguay, was earning coins the other day with his solo circus at a stoplight near the Biblioteca Nacional.

His is not an easy profession. He has to pack in his juggling show while the light is red, then rush forward before the cars move to collect drivers' coins before they drive away.

"It's a very, very short cycle," Marcos observed of the lights.

Still, Marcos can make good money - up to 70,000 pesos per day.

An average show earns him 500 pesos. But occasionally several drivers contribute. And occasionally someone impressed by his effort gives him a bill.

"A bill's a bill!" he grins.

Marcos has been working intersections for six years, while traveling across the continent. He seems to have done well enough in Colombia. But some places he's tried to perform in Venezuela and Uruguay's Punto del Este resort stoplight performs are not allowed.

Marcos's visa is running out and he plans to move on as soon as he's got his traveling money together.


Time to collect. 

Some coins!

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Is Venezuela's President Actually a Colombian?

Venezuelan Pres. Nicolas Maduro.
Should he change the flag? 
Voices in Venezuela's opposition are suggesting that Pres. Nicolás Maduro was born in Colombia - which would make him ineligible to lead Venezuela.

It smacks of the smear campaign against U.S. Pres. Barack Obama - except that in Maduro's case the charges appear credible.

The critics and Colombian newspapers have produced birth certificates showing that Maduro's mother and sister were born in the Colombian border city of Cucuta. And Cucuta residents recall playing soccer there with the youthful Maduro - who has always claimed to have been born and grown up in Caracas.

That's all suggestive, but proves nothing. What seems more significant is the fact that Maduro and his people haven't made the logical response of producing birth and baptism certificates, school records, newspaper clippings or other evidence documenting Maduro's birth and childhood

Instead, only a silence, which speaks loudly.

In contrast, Obama provided his birth certificate and newspaper announcements of his entry into this
Cucuta, Colombia. Maduro's birthplace?

Of course, it shouldn't matter (except to the degree that it speaks to Maduro's honesty). Maduro didn't choose his birthplace, and it's irrelevant to his abilities as president. Lots of people believe he's a terrible president for Venezuela - but I've never heard any suggest that he's disloyal, a Colombian plant, or anything like that. Rather, the feeling on this side of the border is that Maduro has used Colombia as a convenient whipping boy for his many domestic problems.

Peruvian Pres. Alberto Fujimori, the son of Japanese immigrants, suffered from similar birthplace doubts, which were never resolved. Fujimori polarized Peru - as Maduro has done - stabilizing the economy and beating back the Shining Path guerrillas, but violating civil rights and unleashing huge corruption scandals. He's now spending his last years in solitary confinement in a high security Lima prison. But, whether Fujimori was born before his parents boarded the boat to Peru, on the boat, or after landing, has no relevance to his accomplishments and crimes.

The same's true of Maduro.

Perhaps those of us who believe that Maduro is following Chavez's policies of driving his nation down the tubes should be grateful to Maduro for any change in nationalities. After all, if he is Colombian born and had stayed in this country, might we be facing the scary possibility of Maduro in the Casa de Nariño?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Friday, June 28, 2013

How the Muiscas Messaged Their Gods

Clay faces on receptacles for offerings.
When Spanish conquistadores arrived in this region in the 1530s they found a complex Muisca culture, who farmed corn, potatoes and coca leaf, mined gold and emeralds and created complex works of art, some of them meant to communicate with their gods.

Emerald and other offerings.
The Gold Museum (the Museo de Oro) has an exhibition of offerings the Muiscas made to their gods, both before and after the Spanish arrival, as well as the receptacles used to store and transmit them. The exhibition was created in collaboration with a university in London, and the investigators were actually able to identify the work of some 15 individual artisans.

Many of the offerings, often made of gold and emeralds, were uncovered by campesino farmers or road building crews. Fortunately, those discoverers were honest. Most likely, some others were not, selling their finds on the black market.

According to the museum, the Muiscas placed more value in the gesture of giving than in the gift itself. And they gave gold to their gods, often made into exquisite artworks. Of course, theirs was a mostly non-capitalist society.

The tradition does also have a grim side - human sacrifice. One of the museum's texts describes how the sacrificial victim's blood was drained into a receptacle to offer to the gods.

A tiny, beautiful, human form, called a tunjo.

An equisite golden raft.

The Muiscas' territory.

A clay receptacle.

'The sacrificial victim was tied to a high post and pierced with arrows until he bled to death. The blood was believed to be sacred.' A Spanish observer's account of a human sacrifice by the Muisca.

A receptacle used to capture the blood of sacrificial victims.

Terrace patterns in fields once farmed by Muisca people.

Gold people making gold offerings.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours