For first time visitors to the city, most will either stay way up in the leafy environs of residential northern Bogota or in the central downtown colonial Candelaria district. Little notice will be paid to a vast, often faceless but certainly exclusive barrio known as Chapinero.
Why? Well, Chapinero extends from the southern edge of Usaquen in the north at Calle 100 all the way south to Calle 39 making it one of Bogota’s most sizeable barrios. Of course, nowadays not all of this, while denominated as Chapinero, is considered the same area, giving way to more exclusively named barrios such as Rosales, Lago, Chico and so on.
Chapinero is home to luxury shopping malls, boutique hotels, fine religious sites, parks and notable restaurants in addition to being in some parts, a zone of tolerance and gay district.
In 2006, Chapinero was declared as the Zona Gay in Bogota in what was a landmark declaration by the then mayor of Bogota, Luis Eduardo Garzon. Really, the area about which the former mayor was referring to was anywhere west of the Avenida Septima and between Calles 55 and 64.
Here, same sex couples feel comfortable enough to walk hand in hand, hotels such as Hotel High Park catering to the gay crowd have sprung up and the gay nightlife scene has never been stronger with bars and clubs like Theatron and Brokeback Mountain drawing huge crowds on the weekends.
Even the predominant gym, Bodytech and the major supermarket, Carulla, in this area have received gay nomenclature in Bogota vernacular. That Bodygay and Gayrulla are now firmly on the map, the city’s politicians hope to convert the equally as imaginatively thought up Chapigay into an international gay destination of choice.
This is still Latin America where homophobia runs deep, but, things are moving ahead. Chapinero has a LGBT headquarters (Calle 66 No 9a-28), a travel agency by the name of Gay Travel and the gay pride march every year is better attended than the previous one.
Can Bogota become a gay friendly inclusive city? If Chapinero is anything to go by, Bogota is progressing fast.