The high-altitude capital has a system of cable cars, which lead to the highest neighborhoods in the poor south zone of the capital. 

Inequality in Colombia is deeply ingrained, like many other countries in the region, as a legacy of colonialism and capitalism. But the country, and especially the sprawling capital of Bogotá, have elements of social and economic separation which are unique to Colombia, such as decades of armed conflict with guerrillas and drug cartels, massive migration from indigenous and rural areas to the city, and immigration from the crisis in Venezuela, to name a few.  This creates what Camilo Jáuregui calls a reiterative cycle, with social and economic aspects reinforcing each other and making inequality a wicked problem. The city geography doesn't help either, as the same mountains which make the country so productive and beautiful create difficult terrain to build sustainable and affordable housing and transportation links.

Different strata households exist side by side in the foothills of the Andes, where informal housing took off after decades of migration from rural areas. 

In Chapinero, informal housing is sandwiched between expensive new development in one of Bogotá's nicest districts, and the steep mountains just behind. 

New building construction in the south of the city. 

This being said, Colombia is famous for civic innovations in how infrastructure can be planned and built to mitigate some effects of poverty, and provide an enhanced life experience for the millions living in poverty. Car-free roads for cyclists on Sundays, cable car transportation to the highest communities, and turning private parks into public ones are some of these improvements. Mayors in Medellin and Bogotá have been championed as leaders in innovation, and certain events, like the ciclovia Sundays, have spread around the world.  
Unfortunately, inequality, poverty, crime, and instability persist here. The people I talked to expressed a general sentiment that things were getting worse, often grumbling about immigration from Colombia's neighbors. The peace pact between the Colombian government and armed militias such as FARC and ELN in 2022 has reduced the conflicts between the state and the groups but led to an increase in crime. Inequality data has been trending in the wrong direction for several years now. The next few years may be critical as the country embraces its new leftist President and embarks on new pathways toward progress.  ​​​​​​​

Downtown Bogotá.

A map of the social strata locations in Bogotá.

“Social strata” is measured by the government of Colombia based on perceived household wealth. This is to ensure that people who live in poorer strata (1-3) pay less for utilities and other goods as do the higher wealth stratum (4-6). Strata is measured by household appearance and neighborhood characteristics, among other things, and every zone in the city of Bogotá has a strata number attached to it.
Most of the wealthy neighborhoods, the 5-6 strata, are concentrated in the north of the city, while the poorest are in the south. But there are several interesting pockets where they meet. Potentially the most interesting are the Suba hills, a low-slung ridgeline running north to south which has some of the city's most expensive housing estates at its summit and to the east, while to the west, informal housing and lower strata neighborhoods stretch to the horizon. 

One of the many innovations that successive mayors have done in Bogotá to improve the lives (or the perceptions) of the residents in poor communities is to paint their houses. Here, the communities of Santa Cecilia and Cerro Norte are painted to look like the wings of a butterfly when seen from just the right angle. 

The Suba hills are a fascinating patchwork of farms, informal housing, mega-mansions, and gated estates.  

This house (top of the image) is currently being sold for almost 19 billion pesos. Below it stretches a strange mix of informal, poor, rich, and farms on the west slopes of the Suba Hills, where strata "6" and strata "1" meet. 

Infrastructure separating communities in Iberia, in the north of the city. 

The cable car to the top of Ciudad Bolivar is a popular innovation in public transport, made famous in Colombia, that has spread all over Latin America. 

The neat line of a fence separates poor and rich in the Suba Hills. 

The Suba Hills. 

The sunset is never guaranteed in Bogotá, but when it comes it illuminates the Andes mountains perfectly. Here, the Strata 1 community of Villa del Cerro is juxtaposed with the gleaming new Faculty of Sciences building at Javeriana University, in the affluent Strata 5 suburb of Chapinero.

The building is being built with a high degree of eco-friendly features, including these fascinating golden baffles on the facade. I find it a very beautiful building.

RIch and poor in Chapinero, one of Bogotá's nicest suburbs. 

Little informal communities that are hidden from view become apparent when seen from directly above, like this one in Chapinero. 

Extreme inequality between neighborhoods representing Strata 6 and 1 in Bogotá's richer suburbs. 

Extreme inequality between neighborhoods representing Strata 6 and 1 in Bogotá's richer suburbs. ​​​​​​​

Downtown Bogotá in the setting sun, with the barrio of Villa del Cerro and the rich neighborhood of Chapinero in the foreground.

Calasanz Seminary, next to the neighborhood of Villa Del Cerro. 

Chapinero. ​​​​​​​

Bold and interesting designs in the social housing projects in the south of Bogotá. 

The facade of the new Faculty of Sciences building at Javeriana University.

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