Colombia: A Country on the Move
This past December I was fortunate enough to be able to travel with my family to Colombia, South America. The first thing I learned is it’s “Colombia not Columbia” as I was reminded by an assortment of t-shirts and baseball caps found in the [local market]. But that was only the beginning of what I learned.
You’re always high in Bogota
In Bogota, where we started our trip, we stayed in the hilly, historic part of the city called La Candelaria. There is an energy here that seems bristling with hope for the future. The city itself is about 8,400 feet above sea level so feeling breathless is natural—especially when you take the cable car up the side of Mount Monserrat (plan for a few hours traveling to the top and enjoying some shopping and a meal). But breathlessness abounds in this maze of historic colonial architecture, mind-blowing street art, and an incredible array of wonderful museums. We visited the Botero Museum (which, as an added bonus, is free) The Casa de Moneda (House of Money-also free), and the Gold Museum (free on Sundays). The National Museum and the MOMBA (Modern Art) are also in the neighborhood. We had limited time so we opted instead for another kind of art: the Original Bogota Graffiti tour. I’m so glad we did
The Original Bogota Graffiti Tour is expertly led by artist and advocate “Jay” a Colombian native who spent over a decade in the United States. In a land where English is not spoken by everyone, Jay’s English was impeccable. He introduced us to a few dozen graffiti artists and helped us to identify their style and to understand their story. ( Jay explained that “tagging”--spray painting one’s name and/or a simple message-- is not graffiti but some taggers go on to become graffiti artists). Understanding the artist’s choice in technique, color, and subject matter helped us to appreciate the minute detail and hidden messages they use to communicate with us, their audience. Through the artwork we experienced Colombian history, were introduced to indigenous people, and were challenged to think about the role the United States played in the Colombian drug wars. It is a lot to take in, but this tour is not to be missed.
But can you be high in Bogota?
As a cannabis author and educator, no trip is complete without some research into the local cannabis community. First, a bit about the legal landscape; it is legal to use cannabis medically in Colombia. Personal possession in one’s home is allowed—citizens are allowed to grow up to 20 plants for their own use. Although smoking in public is frowned upon, it is not unusual to see, or smell, people smoking cannabis throughout Bogota. The previous administration allowed residents to carry up to 2 ounces of cannabis in public; the new administration has eliminated that rule but many citizens are not ready to relinquish this right.
Colombia cannabis is called “La Cripa” or The Creepy; it is often brown, stringy, and looks a bit more like tobacco. Most cannabis in Colombia is grown outdoors and has a fairly equal balance of THC and CBD since it is allowed to grow as nature intended. And, like so many things in Colombia, the US dollar also goes far when buying “La Cripa”--you are likely to buy what you need for a week or two for $10 US dollars.
If you visit Bogota, here are some links to get you started:
Botero Museum https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/museo-botero-bogota
The Gold Museum http://www.banrepcultural.org/proyectos/about-banrepcultural/plan-your-gold-museum-visit
Mount Montserrat http://www.cerromonserrate.com/en/
The Original Bogota Graffiti Tour http://bogotagraffiti.com/
Author Rob Mejia just published his second book, The Essential Cannabis Book: A Field Guide for the Curious by Spring House Press. He and his family have traveled extensively in Latin and South America. In his free time Rob likes to research, educate curious adults about cannabis, make deep dish pizza and play tennis. He lives in New Jersey.