"WE’RE THE DISPLACED persons of Block 5!” chanted Jairo, a middle-aged man, as he stood by the house his family had lived in for decades in the heart of downtown Bogotá. Behind him was the demolition site—measuring roughly 8,500 square metres—where the city government had planned the construction of a cultural centre and a housing and commercial complex.
It has now been seven years since Bogotá’s Company of Urban Renewal launched the Block 5 project and it has yet to take off. The cultural centre, funds for which were donated by the government of Spain, was ultimately cancelled as a result of Spain’s financial crisis, one of the worst in the eurozone, and the tough austerity measures adopted by the recently elected Spanish conservative government of Mariano Rajoy. The rest of the block was sold to a private developer in 2011 at several times the price paid by the city to the original owners.
While the city government currently struggles to redefine what can only be described as state-backed real estate speculation, Jairo has managed to cling to his property on a legal technicality, at least for now. As we talked in front of the ruins, he contained his anger. “They came in and robbed us…this has been such an odyssey,” he said.