Posted by: Sarah | April 7, 2007

Ghost town…

Spending Semana Santa (Holy Week/week preceding Easter) in Bogota has been a very interesting experience. We had expected that museums and other tourist attractions would have limited hours and that we may not be able to visit as many places as we would during other times of the year, but what we had not expected was how EMPTY the city has become. I have never walked around a huge cosmopolitan capital city and wondered where all of its 9 million inhabitants had disappeared to.

Yesterday, as it was Good Friday the Zona Rosa (one of the usually busiest neighborhoods in Bogota, where many of the best bars, restaurants, and shopping malls are located) was SILENT. When we headed down to the Candelaria however, we were shocked to see the streets and sidewalks packed with people. I dare say that the crowds rivaled those of State Street in Madison during Halloween. The Candelaria is the historic and cultural center of the city, home to government buildings, museums, and of course, dozens of churches and cathedrals. People were pouring in and out of the churches attending mass, street vendors were suddenly selling prayer cards and roseries, processions were led through the streets and more.

Having been raised in a Catholic family (and yes, 9 years of Catholic grade school), I understand many of the traditions and much of the history that is associated with Holy Week. However, having been raised in the States with such a diversity of religious beliefs, it is fascinating to witness these types of religious celebrations in a country that is overwhelmingly dominated by a single religion, and to see how much it filters into the daily lives on an entire nation. The Catholic Church has played a significant role throughout the history of Latin America. I do not wish to argue whether or not this has been a positive or negative role, as I believe that religion is a very sensitive and personal topic, but rather just to comment on how visibly and deeply engrained into the culture that this has become.

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