Over 1,600 articles and over two million words mean we feel the right to be a little indulgent as we mark four years and pick our top 50 memorable moments.
As we celebrate four years of The Bogotá Post, we look back at some of the most memorable moments. It’s been a real roller coaster and I’ve been here from the start: in every edition, in every section. Which is probably why I was given the task of looking back at our greatest hits.
With 28 pages a month and between 30-36 articles in each, we’ve clocked up over 1,600 articles. Counting the listings and credits, we’ve racked up two million words, some more effervescent than others. This is my 142nd article, for example, covering about 125 pages. That’s nearly five whole papers!
Freek Huigen and of course Emma Newbery have also been around all the way, and we’ve been accompanied by a staggering hundreds of other writers, all of whom we thank, along with our advertisers and the other people who labour behind the scenes to make everything possible.
Headlines allow us to be creative and take advantage of our love of wordplay and puns. We’ve painted the town red, white, pink and yellow. We’ve had fun with fracking and had to cut a few headlines at the last minute.
Here are ten of our favourites:
In edition six, we indulged in a little innuendo reporting on Bogotá Audiovisual Market.
We love a bit of Spanglish, such as this article on por and para in Spanish from edition nine.
Fabian Puerta’s name gave Freek Huigen an open goal for a fabulous back page header in edition 13 on track cycling.
The 2015 Pride march gave us an opportunity for a short article about the bear scene in gay Bogotá in #21.
- Londres Billares is falling down
Sad for the venue as their roof collapsed, but great for our writers in #25.
We couldn’t resist in #32, and we came back 12 editions later with ‘what the frack?’
Not many artists use easels these days, but this was golden from edition 36.
Quigley and Erb were willing to undergo a little liver damage for a good cause and came up with this pearl in #44.
Irreverent? Maybe, but also hilarious as Pope Francis came to town in #46.
We honour Partridge in almost every edition, and like this in #48, most of them aren’t accidental…
We’ve been lucky enough to talk to a number of wonderful people, from artists to politicians to sportspeople. Ten of the best interviews are below. It wasn’t easy to make space for only ten; the likes of Toto La Momposina failed to make the final cut!
- Before the plebiscite, in edition 36, our editor spoke to Iván Duque, about the reasons he was championing a ‘No’ vote in the plebiscite. He’s now running for president.
“If we don’t have peace based on the rule of law, we won’t have a sustainable peace”
- Hollman Morris was another of our political targets in edition 17. Azzam Alkadhi spoke to him as he ran for mayor.
“Journalism in Colombia has to change.”
- In our first edition, Steven Grattan had the privilege of hearing from Martin McGuinness about peace in Colombia.
“I believe both sides are serious about trying to conclude a successful negotiation.”
- One of our most emotional interviews was Mark Kennedy speaking to Ximena Gutiérrez about her experience as a victim in edition seven.
“At a very young age you learn what war is; what death is.”
- Our Sports Editor Freek Huigen tracked down George Saunders, who was at the time the only British footballer in Colombia, for edition 16.
“It was a bit of a culture shock to meet up with your boss in prison.”
- Pedro Causil was also on Freek’s list, with the San Andresano ice skater sharing his experiences of life in the Netherlands in edition 28.
“I even had to train on Christmas day and New Year’s Day!”
- Theatre has always been a key subject for us, which was why Milagros Oliveros was excited to speak to Nicolás Montero, director of the National Theatre in edition 46.
“Colombian theatre has a long way to go.”
- In the same edition, Phoebe Hopson spoke to songsmith Elkin Robinson from Old Providence about his new album.
“I’m not saying get rid of Spanish.”
- A different singer, but no less outspoken, was Goyo from ChocQuibTown, who spoke to Laura Brown in edition 42.
“When you look at the media it looks as if Colombia is a white society, but this is not true”
- Last, but absolutely not least, Azzam Alkadhi hung out with megastar James Blunt in edition 16.
“I like to spend time talking to the audience”
COVERING THE BIG STORIES
Colombia in general and Bogotá in particular are never short on stories. There’s always big news to report, and we’re always asking ourselves ‘what’s the burning issue’ in our editorial meetings. The serious topics that we felt deserved most attention are below.
- One of our hardest-hitting and most visceral reports arrived in edition 32 from Wally Broderick, reporting on the dreadful conditions in Tramacúa, one of Colombia’s prisons.
- Gerald Barr used the seemingly innocuous graffiti on the wall to explore paramilitary problems and the reality of living in areas torn apart by conflict in edition 36.
- Landmines blight Colombia, and in edition 16 Emily Dawson and Charlotte Ryan looked at the work being done to clear them from the countryside.
- After the signing of peace, community leaders have faced persecution. Emma Newbery took a double page to highlight the scale of the problem in edition 40.
- As farmers in Vichada move away from growing coca leaves, in edition 42 Marian Romero looked at their plans to grow cacao in its place.
- Back in Bogotá, Gerald Barr hit the streets to investigate the life of those living rough on the streets. Interviews with the people most affected really brought the problem into focus.
- Bullfighting has been a backdrop to our time in print, and Steven Grattan and Mark Kennedy reported in editions seven and eight on the feelings from both sides of the debate.
- Charlotte MacKenzie reported in edition 20 on the struggle of union leader Gilberto Torres to get justice from British Petroleum, who he blamed for his kidnapping and torture in Casanare.
- Mayor Peñalosa’s plans to build on the Van der Hammen reserve caused widespread controversy, and Diana Mejía looked at the situation in edition 30.
- Out of Bogotá again, and Simon West looked at desalination projects in La Guajira as it suffered severe droughts and a humanitarian crisis
Of course, one topic has dominated more headlines and column inches than any else: peace. We started as Santos moved towards the tentative beginnings of a deal, through all the twists and turns to the crisis of the plebiscite rejection. As we move towards a post-war society we look back at five of our key articles.
- When the Colombian public rejected Santos’ peace deal in October 2016, we reacted with five full pages of coverage in edition 37. Thomas Stevenson argued that it was a bad decision to have the vote; Veronika Hölker looked to the future; Sam Gibson got the reaction from ex-combatants.
- In edition 38, we spoke to Doctor Alexandra García about her work analysing the language used in the media about both paramilitaries and guerrillas and explained the way that the word choices had influenced public opinion.
- In edition 44, the planned transitional period came to an end and a new timetable was announced. We analysed the steps forward as well as some of the obstacles and setbacks in what had been a bumpy first six months.
- Also in edition 44, we had the opportunity to visit one of the transitional zones in Tolima, where we spoke to FARC ex-combatants as they celebrated their first anniversary as a non-fighting organisation.
- Needless to say, peace has featured in almost every edition, right up to the last one where Veronika Hölker examined the current state of the peace agreement in practice and how the future is looking likely to develop.
BOGOTA AND BEYOND
It’s not all doom and gloom – Colombia is a country filled with opportunities for fun and quirky details are waiting to be discovered around every corner. We all love this city and its incredible sense of development and change.
If Colombia is our oyster, ten pearls of fun stories are on this next list:
- Reporter Fred Ellis got a bit naughty digging into the kink scene of Bogotá way back in edition three. His walk on the wild side didn’t result in any injuries…he says.
- Phoebe Hopson met a shaman from Santa Marta for edition 48. He talked to her about spiritual awakening and healing.
- Classic beauty was on show when Laura Sharkey looked at the sometimes controversial but ever-popular Miss Colombia competition in edition 11, revealing some of the drama and scandal behind the scenes.
- Few things are as Colombian as vallenato, and our resident Diomedes fan Lee Ritter wrote an entertaining guide to this most Colombian of genres in edition 13.
- Equally Colombian are potatoes, and Jazid Contreras didn’t need asking twice when we wanted someone to try blue potatoes for edition 39.
- That same edition saw Ángela Forero-Aponte blow things up in the tejo court as she explained the country’s national sport for curious gringos.
- We’ve also found time to travel outside the city. Greg Haugen reported in edition 18 on a trip off the beaten track to Guaviare, a part of Colombia rarely visited, by, well, anyone.
- Oli Pritchard also got away, this time to the islands and delivered his caustic verdict on the main town as well as effusive praise of Providencia in his tale of two islands for edition 40.
- Bogotá has many architectural delights for those willing to look for them. Chris Erb saved you the bother in edition 42 with his guide to the Minuto de Dios area.
- Finally, as wordsmiths, one of our favourite – if slightly irreverent – pieces was Steve Hide’s guide to Colombian place names reimagined as vocabulary in edition 23. For example, Titiribi: the thrill of being crushed on transport.
THE BIG EVENTS
We get invited to a lot of things every year and attend as many as possible. It’s been our pleasure to rock up at a crazy mish-mash of different events and through the fog of memory, we look back at some of the best – annual, biannual and one-offs.
- The event we’ve covered best is probably FilBo. We’ve spoken to more authors than we can list, participated in events and heard some of Colombia’s and the world’s most relevant speakers, from Brigitte Baptiste to Fermin Muguruza and everyone in between.
- The most fun of all the events we get to year-in, year-out is definitely Rock al Parque. It’s the first place we dropped a C-bomb in print, and consistently the source of acerbic, vitriolic writing interspersed with gonzo praise and twisted metaphors.
- Colombia’s first participation in the World Cup football for 16 years was a big deal and our sports team rose to the challenge, delivering everything from history to social commentary to an in-depth look at the squad and games. We still have the wallchart up on the wall!
- In February 2017, a star-studded lineup of Nobel Laureates came to town and we were in attendance. We had the privilege of listening to speeches from laureates such as Liberian women’s activist Leymah Gbowee; former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias Sanchez; Iranian human rights advocate Shirin Ebadi; US anti-landmine activist Jody Williams and Indian child and education advocate Kailash Satyarthi.
- Finally, there’s always a time to let out your inner geek, and we take great pleasure in our yearly trips to SOFA. Dressing up and shopping in our free time, getting interviews and writing crazy tales in our work time: this is where we come alive.