Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Street theatre in Bogota downpours

For the last four years on the tenth of the month, the Colombian social organisation Rayuela has staged street theatre in central Bogota. This usually involves placing bricks with the names of victims of the armed conflict in the central square, Plaza de Bolivar, laying out banners and handing out roses. Sometimes they block streets and hold up the bricks to the traffic. Despite the rain, which persisted all day, today they did several blockades.
In 2005 when Victor, a popular breakdancer, was murdered in the poor Bogota barrio of Altos de Cazucá, his friends' initial reaction was to give up their dance and music to seek vengeance. These violent urges were converted into creative ones by the professionals from various disciplines of Rayuela, and two months after the murder, his friends displayed the funeral notices of the 250 youths of the area murdered by paramilitaries since 2003. Some of those continue to take part in Rayuela's activities to this day.
Today, one group headed for Cazuco, whilst another set off for the National University where a number of blockades were carried out on the main road outside the university entrance - the university was chosen to mark the recent Day of Student Victims of Violence. Wearing white T-shirts saying 'Nunca Mas' (Never Again), the dozen performers first warmed up in a nearby side street, before marching to the main road where they spread across two lanes of traffic and held up the bricks, whilst some walked among the stationary traffic holding them up to car windows. After this had happened a few times cops started showing up, first on motorbikes, then in vans and finally a water-cannon that looked like it had seen a lot of action made an unexpected appearance.
Being sodden enough, it was then decided to head off to the main square to unload the hundred or so bricks and place them outside the Congress, along with a few banners. Due to the heavy rain there weren't many passers by and the security present didn't show much interest, no doubt aware of this monthly ritual. Some soldiers placed the roses offered to them on the bricks and a few tourists took pictures but it was an otherwise low key affair.
The bricks back in the truck it was then off to a nearby busy intersection where the traffic was totally blocked for nine minutes - I was told they normally do this for only three minutes. There were several video cameras filming the action, and the cops kept a low profile, telling some of the blockaders to get up and move on, but without enforcing this. Deciding to call it a day we headed off to refuel with a slice of pizza and coffee.
At the post-action debrief those blockading felt positive about the actions, which lasted longer than usual, and the response from passers by.
As well as in Bogota, Rayuela also do street theatre and music workshops in a few other regions in Colombia. They call the street theatre 'Teatro Efimero'.
Click here for photos.

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