Bogota Reinvents Itself Through Tropical Music

The Big Band Bogotá show was held at the spanking-new Teatro Mayor at the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Public Library Cultural Center in the northernmost quadrant of the city. The library, bustling with children and young adults, had an impromptu visitor that day, hip-hop MC Diana Avella, who brought her young son. Avella, who has been rapping for 12 years, is part of El Colectivo Distrital de Mujeres Hip Hoppers, a collective that functions as a support group as well as a workshop for hip-hop practices such as breakdancing, DJ'ing and graffiti writing.

"Bogotá is a city that receives daily people from all over the country," she said. "They come here bringing their beliefs, customs, and of course their music. I am a proud Bogotana, and I have seen how the city prepares itself in a better way to appreciate diversity and culture. I live in a city where in educational institutions and different stages I can sing my rap compositions freely without any kind of exclusion."

The theme of inclusion was one often heard in my conversations with city officials, urban planners, marketers, and non-profit organizations. Some of those I encountered were diehard Bogotanos who happened to have Taiwanese or gitana ancestry, all speaking that proper Colombian Spanish, proud of their city and country. Aterciopelados singer Andrea Echeverri played a show while I was there in support of peace in the Cauca Valley, and sent me the lyrics to her song, "Minguera."

Indios, campeches, negros y blancos/ Todos junticos, todos luchando/ Por la tierra, por los derechos/ Por el respeto de los ancestros

Whether or not this initiative helps Colombia establish itself as a capital of Latin American music, or heal a country seemingly trapped in an endless civil war (this just in—the government is negotiating with the guerrillas, again), there is strong proof that the desire is there to come together.

And music often gets the job done.

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