The 4th step of Wide Open exploration was made in Bogotá for a stopover at Casa B, a unique cultural third-place.
While its crime rate has abated in recent years, Bogotá remains marked by insecurity: some of its neighborhoods – especially in the South – constitute real “no-go zones”. Belén, located on the symbolic border of the rich northern and poor districts of the South, has long been a dangerous and stigmatized district. The cultural center Casa B is a hybrid place, dedicated mainly to the youth of the district, which aims since 2012 to give a new face to the territory and its nationals, through the arts, sport and memory.
A POSITIVE THIRD PLACE, BY AND FOR THE INHABITANTS OF THE DISTRICT
This space open to all includes a library, a meeting space, an open-air cinema, an organic garden, a ceramic and silkscreen workshop… First and foremost a place of expression, sharing and learning, offering many completely free workshops for the greatest number. In this multi-faceted ecosystem imagine and orchestrate many neighborhood projects, with and for the local community. For example, the production of a monthly local newspaper, the animation of a skateboard school, thematic evenings, cultural events and soon the opening of a community kitchen. Positive third place, Casa B contributes with its inclusive and sustainable approach, to positively transform the entire neighborhood of Belén.
BUILD NEW IMAGINARS
In a territory marked by violence, the choice of arts is not a coincidence. The keystone of Casa B is its cultural approach, because here, art reveals all its political potential. A new world of awakening, creativity and expression is opening up at Casa B for the local community. The community newspaper “Periférico”, written here by the young people of the neighborhood, creates a new narrative for Belén. Far from stigmatizing discourses that inspire fear, insecurity and marginalization, we collectively construct a new imaginary of the neighborhood, making visible for the first time what we did not take the time to look at. Its strengths and curiosities, its traditional crafts, its beauties of everyday life, the history of its old, the news of its narrow streets. Videos produced by Casa B, have also helped to revalue this “Belén”, proudly displayed for the first time as a trademark. In a sounding box of neighborhood life, the place transforms the perception that one has of its streets and its inhabitants, from outside as well as inside. Beyond the issues of communication or attractiveness, it is especially to give the chance to a new individual and collective identity to the inhabitants of Belén.
Positive third place, Casa B contributes with its inclusive and sustainable approach, to positively transform the entire neighborhood of Belén.
STRENGTEN THE SOCIAL FABRIC
If to revitalize a neighborhood, adding more green spaces and color to sad buildings can be a good start, these measures of ceremonial are far from sufficient. The main agents of transformation of a neighborhood are its own communities. In a territory where the temptations of narcotrafic or crime are omnipresent for young people, Casa B is there gives them a voice and show them that other paths are possible. By enhancing their thinking, their intelligence, the place has developed over time a highly effective alternative educational model, offering many keys to young people looking for a new way to see and live life. Community events also reinforce the social fabric, the sense of belonging and the bonds of trust weakened by the war, for a more united Belén.
OPEN THE DISTRICT IN BOGOTÁ AND TO THE REST OF THE WORLD
By weaving many partnerships, Casa B manages to connect the youth of Belén – victims of a high marginalization – to the rest of Bogotá, or even to the rest of the world. An outing to the theater, the opportunity to develop in their own way a room of the Museum of Modern Art, a concert at the French Institute, an exchange with other students of Cuba: all opportunities are good to break this invisible border encircling the neighborhood of Belén. Moreover, by promoting, informing and empowering, Casa B promotes the appropriation of social issues and local citizen participation, guaranteeing a healthier democracy.
PREVENT THE EFFECTS OF GENTRIFICATION
In the early years of its creation, the co-founders had to appease the fears of those who saw in Casa B a gentrification tool. The phenomenon of gentrification includes its natural share: a safer area becomes more attractive every time. Yet the position of Casa B is clear, it is not to attract a richer audience in the neighborhood, but to lead a process of dignification of the territory, with the complicity of local. Moreover, Casa B is worth for Casa Belén, this real neighborhood house, inclusive and open to all, has taken up the challenge of local anchoring over time. By organizing activities for children, Casa B has gradually gained the trust of entire families. The desires and needs of the local community dictate the projects developed: it is surely this eminently participative character that ultimately makes Casa B a living place and anchored in its territory. Utopia evolves to the rhythm of everyone’s dreams, and it is here that Belén’s future is imagined and prepared. To go further, Wide Open invites you to discover his interview with Dario Sendoya, co-founder of Casa B!
This article is published in Hub Smart City