Printer Friendly


On January 15, 1893, the artisans of Bogota took to the streets to protest a set of media articles that described them as "sucios, peresozos, e irresponsables" (Colombia, "Mendicidad"). These articles were authored by journalist Ignacio Gutierrez Isaza and published in the conservative newspaper Colombia cristiana-, they took aim at the artisans by criticizing their manners, work schedules, and their weekly day of rest, known as lunes de zapatero. In response to these defamatory columns, groups of artisans took over downtown Bogota and occupied the newspaper's headquarters, as well as four police stations and the area surrounding the presidential mansion. During the event, one of the protesters was murdered, further infuriating the participants who, over the course of two days--January 15 and 16--shocked the city and left behind opened prisons, destroyed buildings, and looted stores.

The 1893 artisans' protest was one of a series of public acts through which the subaltem class of Bogota used public space to contest social segregation. By occupying the emblematic sites of the Republican order--the state, commerce, the press, and the justice system--artisans, peasants, and low-class workers temporarily appropriated spaces exclusively built for the use of bourgeois national subjectivity. Despite the impact of these riots, the characteristic practices of the lumpenproletariat continued to be marginalized and stereotyped, not only in the printed press but also by the national government.

This article shifts the focus from such visible forms of resistance through popular urban mobilization to examine a silent mode of opposition, one that was woven into people's everyday lives and that reaffirmed the presence of regional identities in the bourgeois city. The bigoted comments of Colombia cristiana reflected the elite's aim to banish the customs of poor people and, in doing so, lay the foundations for a modern urban society. One of the primary goals of the ruling class was to shape inhabitants and spaces according to the norms of European civility, and one of the means through which to achieve that goal was the criminalization of regional ways. However, even when faced with measures such as the prohibition of these traditional customs, people continued to perfonn these customs as part of their daily life in the capital city. This essay argues that through the performance of popular ways of living, the urban poor, as a collective, resisted the elite's plan to erase them from national culture and from the city's landscape.

In the following pages, I examine the literary representation of tenement housing and of the consumption of chicha in Jose Antonio Osorio's novel La casa de vecindad (1930), emphasizing how these spaces and practices function as mechanisms of urban resistance. (1) In this analysis, I bring to the fore that the urban poor constantly challenged the ordering of urban space by forging their own perfonnativity through these practices. Even if official discourse disavowed and banned tenements and chicha consumption, both these spaces and practices continued to exist in the daily life of the Colombian capital.

Literary representations of early twentieth-century Bogota illustrate how, by claiming space for their own cultural customs, the subaltern class opposed urban segregation. One of the first novels of the big Colombian city, Jose Antonio Osorio's la casa de vecindad, tells the story of a nameless, unemployed typographer forced to live in a cheap tenement, and it exposes the ways in which regional identities challenged the city's modernization. At the time of its publication, most of the local bookstores refused to sell the novel, making it likely that it had been subject to some type of censorship (Vanderhuck 74). For Osorio, literature had a social function, one which he defined specifically as that of generating awareness of the injustices and abuses inflicted upon the powerless. This urgency is clear in novels like El criminal (1935), Hombres sin presente (1938), and El dia del odio (1952), which along with La casa de vecindad are part of "The Bogota Cycle" (Neira-Palacio 23-24), a series of writings where the author portrays the struggles of the poor in the Colombian capital.

Although Osorio's best-known novel, El dia del odio, also depicts the daily lives of subaltern identities in Bogota, its portrayal of popular cultural practices is detached from urban normative spaces. Whereas La casa de vecindad brings chicha consumption and tenement housing out into the public light, as the novel's plot takes place in the core of the city, El dia del odio keeps them in the darkness. The hiding places that the novel's protagonists, Transito and El Alacran, seek out are located in peripheral neighborhoods and only come alive at night. Furthermore, the urban segregation experienced by the poor is only depicted as the lead-up to the night of E! Bogotazo (1948), the riot that followed the murder of the popular leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. Conversely, in the active narration of day-to-day of life in a tenement house located a few blocks away from the Presidential House, La casa de vecindad turns the space and practices of the poor into a means of contestation.

The publication of la casa de vecindad coincided with the municipal government's efforts to promote changes through initiatives involving urban planning and public works, including the Plan Bogota Futuro (1923), prepared by Colombian Ricardo Olano, and subsequently the Plan Regulador de Bogota (1928, 1933, and 1938), prepared by the Austrian architect Karl H. Brunner. Both projects aimed to eliminate the social spaces where the poor congregated in the downtown area to create a center that was destined for the exclusive use of the bourgeoisie. By examining Osorio's novel alongside of these plans and the discourses and legal practices that supported them, this article analyzes how the literary portrayal of life in a tenement house, also called tiendas de habitacion or casas de vecindad, represents the ways in which the lumpenproletariat claimed their place in the city. By making marginal practices part of the urban everyday life, Osorio's novel recognizes the places of subaltern identities in the downtown core.

La casa de vecindad has widely been read as portraying the struggle of the urban poor to fully participate in the modern city (Salazar 21 ; Volkening lviii) and as giving a voice to those identities excluded from the nationalist discourse (Williams 45; Calvo-Isaza 116; Romero 400). However, there is little scholarship examining the way in which the text, as an urban novel, questioned the geographical place reserved for regional identities in the city. This article maintains that the location of the tenement, as well as the inclusion of geographical references to the places where regional life unfolded, contest the segregation of the poor by urban development initiatives introduced in the early twentieth century. Osorio's tenement house upsets the civilized ways of life that the elites and bourgeoisie aspired to crystallize in the administrative center of the city.

Scholars have understood resistance in urban contexts to be a collective organized act led by an operator and intended to solve structural problems (Castells, The Urban 24675; Pickvance 104-05; Harvey, Rebel 115); the present article differs from this characterization by comprehending urban resistance as a set of unorganized collective practices that contradict the behaviors expected from urban citizens. In this sense, urban resistance has a cultural connotation, exercised through what James Scott and Rose Weitz call resistance by accommodation, a type of contestation disguised in people's daily practices (Scott 34; Weitz 670). Subversion of the social order is achieved by the performance of the roles that official discourse has stigmatized and by the presentation of counterhegemonic practices in normative spaces. Therefore, the act of resistance takes place within the boundaries of what the dominant imagery expects from marginalized identities in the city and is premised on the possibility that those identities can enter normative urban spaces through such (stigmatized) roles. I trace this dominant imagery as well as the aspects through which Osorio's novel suggests that subaltern groups destabilized the government's urban projects by routinely displaying in the city the practices that catalogued them as marginal.

The everyday form of cultural resistance portrayed in La casa de vecindad targets the capitalist politics of space, which 1 reconstruct immediately below by tracing how the stigmatization of the poor went hand-in-hand with these politics as manifested in the changes in the spatial order of Bogota during the 1920s. As David Harvey has argued, urbanization is carried out by those who possess capital and functions as a way for them to continually destroy and reproduce their surplus value (The Urban 22). As surplus is not created if investments are static, urban renewal allows already built assets to gain a greater social status which, in turn, grants them a higher economic price in the market. The space of disobedience created in Osorio's novel, out of sync with the elite's imagined city, prevents the social status of fixed assets, such as buildings, from mutating and accumulation, from reproducing. By this logic, the text suggests that urban performance of regional practices interfered with the capitalist process of urban renewal in downtown Bogota.

The Stigmatization of Tenement Housing in Bogota

From the government's point of view, the lumpenproletariat's tiendas de habitacion, one of the first types of tenements in the downtown area, were responsible for to the city's uncleanliness and backwardness. The tienda was a small rental room that lacked running water and was usually inhabited by mestizo or indigenous people who came to Bogota looking for employment (Alvarez 48). By 1907, it was estimated that 6,122 houses, or 39% of the buildings in the downtown core, were tenements (Mejia-Pavony 367). Because of overcrowding, the tiendas were considered to be foci for infection, where people lived "[...] sin separacion de sexos, sin luz, agua, ni aire, sin desaguaderos ni letrinas" (Cualla 2). Tenements were seen as a threat to the city and as an obstacle to portraying Bogota as a as a suitable place for international business interests.

The lifestyles of the tenants were of primary concern for the ruling class. In 1936, Juan Lozano y Lozano, a Colombian politician and intellectual, wrote about the places inhabited by artisans:

[...] piezas ciegas que les sirven de residencia y de lugar de trabajo. Adelante, contra la puerta, esta el taller, en donde se les ve ocupados en su oficio. Una division transversal separa este "templo del trabajo" del "sweet home" [...]. Adentro vive el artesano con sus familiares, con sus propiedades, con su gato y su perro. Alli se duerme, alli se cocina, alli se cuida a los enfermos, alli se almacenan los desperdicios de los materiales. (Lozano 54)

Lozano's words express his disapproval of the artisans' social uses of space and of the everyday practices that took place in it. In particular, he criticized the lack of a clear separation between the workplace and housing, as well as the varying nature of the activities that were carried out in a single room. For the ruling class, the communality of tenements not only fostered diseases, it also functioned as the breeding ground for other vices that were generally associated with backwardness, such as promiscuity, alcoholism, and vagrancy.

The widespread institutional message was that the tenements' overcrowding forced men out of their households and encouraged them to visit taverns, abandon their wives and children, consume alcohol, and participate in vice and crime (Colon 109). It was thought that by offering the tenants of these houses clean and larger rooms located on the periphery, the poor would enjoy their homes, care for their families, and be more productive members of society. In 1919, The Central Board of Hygiene, an institution created by the municipal government to ensure the city's public health, proposed the eradication of the spaces of popular congregation located in the downtown core. The neighborhoods considered the most dangerous for the city's public health were those that had the most tenements houses: El Paseo Bolivar, Santa Barbara, and Las Cruces y San Victorino (Mejia-Pavony 386). By the mid-1920s, the government started the evacuation of El Paseo Bolivar, relocating inhabitants on the periphery of the city. Tenements were viewed and treated as a social problem that hampered socioeconomic progress; as such, destroying them meant pushing forward both the city and the nation.

In the process of shaping a modern city, the elite echoed urban planning. Government projects such as Olano's Plan Bogota Futuro supported the design of a modern, scientific planned, hygienic, and aesthetically appealing town, premised on the elimination of overcrowding and of anti-hygienic conglomerates (Alba-Castro 183). In the 1930s, Brunner's Plan General de Urbanismo sought to set limits on the unorganized growth of the downtown area (Cortes-Solano 7,12), targeting the tenement houses, which "la exagerada densidad [...] contribuye a convertirlos en Slums latinoamericanos" (Brunner 243).

For the Austrian architect, the slums infected the city and caused the devaluation of the spaces around them. Their elimination was therefore an economic necessity. In 1936, through Agreement No. 480, the municipality purchased a lot in the south of the city, which it intended for the relocation of the people displaced due to the demolition of central slums such as El Paseo Bolivar. By 1938, the destruction of this area was a success, and the Guide for the Celebration of the City's Fourth Centenary proudly announced how the place had gone from being a dirty slum inhabited by criminals to a beautiful park for the recreational activities of children and adults (qtd. in Colon 105).

Despite the state's efforts to displace communal housing arrangements from downtown Bogota, these continued to be part of the capital's landscape. In the 1950s, tenements were the most prevalent type of housing in some neighborhoods of the pericenter (Cardeno-Meiia 67). In 2009, the local administration calculated that 239,000 people living in the central neighborhoods--La Candelaria, Santa Fe, and Los Martires--inhabited tenement houses (Morales, "Inquilinatos"). This persistence of communal living in the downtown area attests to the continued existence of a subaltern sector that opposed the cultural and spatial values promoted by the government's plans for renewal.

Today, the government continues to aspire to elevate the status of downtown Bogota through urban renewal. In 2012, the Colombian government approved Ministerios, a plan that foresees the demolition of nine blocks of centrally located popular neighborhoods, so as to gather in a single building the presidential offices dispersed around Bolivar Square. It is thought that the project, which requires the eviction of houses, tenements, and businesses, will improve the prestige and the historical value of the downtown area (Resolution No. 11, 2013). The authorities consider that the sector currently inhabited by working class people lacks the order and security that a historical core should have. (2) It is believed that the plan will bring back to the area the safety required for commercial activities, public practices, and tourism.

Osorio's Novel as Literary Urban Resistance: Exposing the Politics of Space

By making a tenement house the protagonist of his novel, Osorio seeks to reveal the politics of space on which the nation is built, particularly as it takes shape in Bogota. The fictitious tenement is located in the city's downtown, in "las inmediaciones del Parque de Los Martires" (Osorio 2), a square in the administrative center of the city that honors the heroes who were killed in the War of Independence (1810-19). The tenement's location both brings the marginal identities of the house's tenants closer to the political pillars of the country and questions national discourses of citizenship. The square features a seventeenmeters-tall obelisk, with the names of martyrs engraved on it, such as those of lawyer Camilo Torres Tenorio and scientist Francisco Jose de Caldas. This shows that the territorial unity aspired to by the national state (and fought for in the wars of independence) has translated into social inequality, as, from their place on the obelisk, the lettered men that shaped the nation look down at the commoners that live around Los Martires. The tenement's location unveils that the nation is an intellectual creation whose power is sustained by the fragmentation of the city.

The text refers especially to the nation's use of urban stratification to overcome the economic crisis caused by the US Great Depression (1929-30). After a period of prosperity in Colombia fueled by exports like coffee and petroleum, the US economic crisis caused industrial stagnation, unemployment, and paralyzed the construction of a system of roads and buildings, which had begun to be built across the country in previous years (Henao and Gomez 10). The typographer--the novel's main character--has been unemployed for two months and his only desire is to find a job to be able to pay his rent (Osorio 129). His circumstances show Bogota's social reality during the 1930s and portray the central role of rent in helping the flow and transformation of capital in a moment of financial paralysis. The crisis devastated the capital based on raw materials, prompting traders and investors to buy real estate to increase their profits (Arango 87). Investment in urban property and tenements like the one that is at the center of La casa de vecindad allowed for the reproduction of capital at a moment when the international commerce of local materials was paralyzed.

I suggest that the novel's emphasis on the importance of rent for the typographer is a response to the adoption in Bogota of the French urbanist Baron Haussmann's (1853-70) urban model. Just like the Baron Haussmann, Olano and Brunner wanted to remove the troublesome sectors by building avenues, parks, majestic buildings, and gardens. Along with displacing the the places where the poor congregated, the new constructions increased the price of what were considered depressed areas, giving them higher symbolic status and rental prices (Harvey, Rebel 16). The anonymous typographer's constant anguish about paying rent reenacts the pressure that capital exercises over the poor so as to facilitate the circulation of surplus capital. The social value brought to Los Martires by those who desire urban renewal makes it impossible for people like the characters in La casa de vecindad to afford the climbing prices of rent.

The particular condition of the house, an old rental property abandoned by its owners (Osorio 11), demonstrates how an obsolete construction and its residents become unfit for the city's economy. The tenement's colonial architecture proves to be anachronistic in relation to the nation's socioeconomic goals. In his first day in the house, the typographer tells us:

La casa es asi: El patio es cuadrado y esta rodeado por un pasillo o corredor [...]. Sobre cada uno de los dos pasillos en angulo se abren tres cuartos que deben ser semejantes al mio [...]. Esta cruzado por cuerdas en todas direcciones para poner a secar la ropa que se lava en la fuente. Alli queda la cocina [...]. En el se encuentran los otros servicios higienicos y hay tambien muchas cuerdas [...]. Habia pantalones muy remendados [...]. Habian camisas amplisimas, tambien remendadas. Algunas parecian casi inservibles. (Osorio 5-6)

In addition to describing a colonial building with rooms located around a square patio, the house's setting shows signs of a communal lifestyle among people who lack a filial connection. At a time when civic texts, such as manuals of good citizenship, promoted the social separation of individuals' public and private life (Gonzalez-Stephan 109), Osorio's tenants' share toilets and a kitchen, and expose the misery of their clothes to the entire building. Not only is the design of the house out of sync with the airs of modernity imported to the city, but the ways of living that it harbors--the sharing, the noises, the exposure--also upset a bourgeois order looking to shape domestic individualized citizens capable of following the work ethics of capitalism that require commitment, discipline, and rigorous schedules. Furthermore, the tenement's communality, the sharing of public services and provisions, disrupts the capitalist need for a greater demand for goods in the market, and therefore, creates the need among the poor for them to sell labor

By portraying how communality is threatened by the process of urban renewal, the novel denounces how urban modernity segregates the poor. Osorio's house is located in an important commercial sector which houses a number of organizations, including the National University School of Medicine, the Samper Cement Factory, and the Sabana Train Station ("Historia"). These organizations represent progress in the form of education, transportation, and production, while the rental house, in contrast, symbolizes a stain on the socioeconomic changes desired for the downtown area. Although the building generates rent for its owners, the transformation of the landscape leads to its devaluation and to what David Harvey has called an "increasing specialization of function" (The Urban 113). The gentrification of the area requires that the existing uses of space--such as marketplaces, brothels, tenements, and warehouses--be replaced by specialized uses destined for bourgeois consumption, including cafes, hotels, restaurants, bookstores, and department stores. The construction of the train station and the university near the tenement reflects a new market in which the old colonial rental building and its residents become residual elements dispossessed of the cultural value and skills needed to participate in this market.

In their fates, the house's tenants embody the specialization of space implied by the reproduction of capital through urbanization. The typographer stands in for those individuals left behind by the new demands of a capitalist nation. He has lost his job thanks to the industrialization of printing and "[...] la invencion de los linotipos." (Osorio 1) He lacks the technical skills to survive the technological advancement of an industrializing society. The protagonist's occupational dislocation and the labor informality of his neighbors--the majority of whom are informal workers, thieves, prostitutes, and sellers in the market-represent the urban life faced by the Colombian regional identities that migrated to the capital in hopes of finding employment. At the turn of the twentieth century, rural migrants comprised a large part of the population of Bogota; they generally did not have enough job skills or capital to fully participate in the capital economy (Sowell 724). The migrants' labor profile and mentality, combined with economic stagnation, did not fit into a developing bourgeois economy that increasingly required trained factory workers and specialized consumers. Thus, the economic insecurity of the typographer and his neighbors reflects the exacerbation of the exclusion brought on by modernization.

The occupational disqualification of the tenants' functions as a metaphor of individuals' unequal political participation in the city, for example, in Law 85, which was passed in 1916, the government revoked the right to vote from individuals like the characters of La casa de vecindad. To vote for municipal council and departmental assembly positions, men were required to have a profession, trade, or craft, or a lawfully and publicly recognized occupation; to vote for representatives in Congress and in presidential elections, they had to be literate and to earn an annual salary of three hundred pesos or of one thousand pesos, if this income came from property owning (LeGrand 532). For people like the typographer and his neighbors, this law made them disappear from the political life of the city. The evil character attributed to the building manifests this condition. For the typographer, "[...] la casa esta maldita. Todos los que en ella vivimos vamos a tener un mal fin" (Osorio 55). These words transform the house into the urban embodiment of the poor because all those who live in it share a condemnation. Just like the house, the tenants are sentenced to disappear by an urban plan based on economic power. Most important, they are condemned to have no control of the environment where they circulate.

The spatial condition of the house's residents refers to the inability of the poor to exercise spatial citizenship which, according to Mark Purcell, would manifest in the possibility "that inhabitants will play a central role in the decisions that produce urban space" (qtd. in Perdue and Sbicca 106). In La casa de vecindad, spatial citizenship is a matter of money, and people's urban organization is determined by their ability to consume and display the protocols of modernity: literacy, ownership, self-discipline, hygiene, correct language, etc. The protagonist is clearly aware of his position within the city, as he writes "!No soy nadie para nadie!" (Osorio 44). Paying a daily rent where he lives and unable to make money, the typographer knows that he is powerless, and that his stay in the tenement depends on the mercy of the landlord.

This sense of participatory invisibility results in the geography of expulsion presented in the novel. The poor occupy the pericenter, a place that offers more job opportunities due to its proximity to the downtown, while the rich--able to pay for transportation and wanting to separate themselves from the common people--move to spacious houses outside of the city (Muth qtd. in Harvey, Social 13). Due to commercial expansion, the downtown is destined for exclusive governmental and commercial use. This use of space leads to a dramatic increase in rent in Los Martires. As noted by the protagonist, "Los arrendamientos en Bogota han ascendido a sumas inverosimiles y no he logrado conseguir este cuartico de ocho pesos al mes sino despues de dos semanas de buscarlo" (Osorio 1). The expensive lease is a reference to the ongoing valorization of the downtown land which exceeds the financial means of the subaltern. The disproportion between the area of the room--"este cuartico"--and its rental price accounts for how the commercial and administrative meaning attached to the land exercises pressure over the poor, forcing them either to leave or to inhabit the center under detrimental conditions.

In the neighborhood where the novel takes place, Los Martires, the government had its offices, wholesalers had established their businesses (Alcaldia Mayor, "Recorriendo" 9), and the Sabana Train Station made the cozy cafes and restaurants in the area the perfect places where merchants could go to to close deals ("Historia del" As Brunner's 1930s plan outlined, these popular conglomerates were to be cleared of hovels and occupied by the elite, who could easily build proper sanitation services in the area (Duquino Rojas 216). Los Martires and the downtown core were gaining the status of a commercial district; in order for this status to generate optimum revenue for investors, those groups unable to satisfy its cultural requirements had to disappear. In Los Martires, this transformation is evidenced in the construction of new modern buildings, such as the Manuel M. Peraza building (1921), which was one of the first structures in the country to have elevators.

Osorio symbolically fights the capitalist desire to displace the poor from the center by narrating the tenants' experiences of the city. When Juana, a single mother toward whom the typographer has developed parental feelings, is thrown out of the house, presumably for deceiving the son of Georgina, the tenement administrator, the typographer invites her for a chat in the Parque de Los Martires. Despite the gravity of their situation, the typographer, who is accused of taking Juana away from her lover, romanticizes the urban landscape in his diary. On the evening of the encounter, he writes in his journal, "Habia una rara sonoridad en el ambiente, como si los gritos infantiles, las voces de los paseantes, hasta los asperos chirridos del tranvia sonasen bajo una gran campana de cristal, capaz de dulcificarlo todo" (Osorio 80). Although the hierarchies of the city space are established beyond his power, the act of writing the urban environment provides the typographer with the power to reimagine the landscape already imagined by the city planners. Through Juana and the typographer's shared urban experience, the square, surrounded by medical students, well-off tourists, nannies, children, and the trolley (Osorio 80), becomes a space of inclusion for these two near-homeless characters.

The narration of the city from the tenants' perspectives elevates these marginal individuals to the status of urban citizens despite their lack of money. Osorio creates a place for these criminalized identities at the time when Olano's and Brunner's projects aspired to demolish the old houses to open fast transport roads throughout the center of Bogota (Amezquita 96), and Congress had approved the expulsion of drunkards, prostitutes, and wandering people to agrarian penal colonies (LeGrand 538). Describing the surroundings of the tenement, the typographer notes that, "La calle 10 [...] estaba llena de gente del pueblo, atraida por el expendio clandestino de chicha que se hace en todos los restaurantes que hay en aquel lugar" (Osorio 51). La casa de vecindad makes prohibited practices like the consumption of chicha, an indigenous com-based fermented drink, a part of Bogota's urban life; in doing so, it defines these practices as subversive actions.

The Stigmatization of Chicha: Resisting Spatial Repression

In the Colombian capital, the conservative government of Rafael Nunez, which helmed a period known as "The Regeneration" (1868-98), started a campaign against chicha. By the turn of the twentieth century, the consumption of chicha was prohibited in downtown Bogota and allowed only on the outskirts of the city (Vega Cantor97). According to a 1912 statement by the city's police director, this popular drink was the seed for "la mugre, la ignorancia, la pereza [... y] el delito" ("Informe del Director"). The prohibition was supported by a scientific discourse that blamed the drink for "la degeneracion colectiva del pueblo colombiano, de su pereza atavica, su degradacion fisica [...] y su moral belica" (Gonzalez and Alegria 195). In 1922, Agreement No 15 established geographical areas where the making and distribution of chicha were prohibited. The forbidden zone "comprendian todo el centro economico, historico y simbolico de la ciudad, ademas de Chapinero y barrios obreros tradicionales como Las Cruces." (Calvo y Saade 132) The legislation sought to achieve the disappearance of both the practice and the beverage from the administrative area of the capital.

When the novel's typographer refers to the clandestine sale of chicha, the text highlights the way in which the poor countered the prohibition of the drink by stealthily selling it at the back of asistencias or restaurants for the poor. This depiction of chicha and asistencias points to a popular strategy of resistance that was aided by a communal complicity. Moreover, in this battle against the rationalization of urban space, people's silence in regard to this illegal activity wrested from the elite its power to punish those who violated the rule.

Chicha consumption in Osorio's work establishes a collective urban space shaped by the lumpenproletariat. One of the scenes depicting the drink is that of two drunken women who, after being apprehended by the police in the tenement, "Marchaban pasivamente, maquinalmente, como si nada les importara en el mundo, poseidas de una total indiferencia [...]" (Osorio 50). This passage is spatially subversive in two ways: it redistributes (to the poor) the power to define urban life, and it validates the customary rights of the consume artisanal regional beverages. It redistributes power because although the state criminalized chicha, the women ignored the law and made the drink part of their urban experience. The characters exercise "practices that are foreign to the 'geometrical' [...] space of visual, panoptic, or theoretical constructions" (Certeau 94). In their inebriated ambling, they dismissed the rules of space and, without care, used the streets with practices legally ostracized from the city.

The text also vindicates chicha as an ancestral routine, historically part of the diet of the native people of Colombia. Chicha comes from the indigenous Kuna culture, which used it in rituals, social celebrations, and in the context of economic transactions (McGovern, "Chicha"). In Osorio's text, chicha represents a part of Colombian indigenous heritage rooted in the subalterns' identity. The novel's depictions of Chichismo--as the consumption of chicha was called by the government--accordingly define the prohibition of the drink as a state-created crime that aims to annihilate a well-rooted cultural tradition. The implicit message for the reader is that the real criminal is the state.

The literary representation of the clandestine consumption of chicha suggests a class struggle over the use of space. It refers to the competition between the elite and the masses to appropriate scarce symbolic and economic goods: means of transportation, parks, restaurants, businesses, schools, etc. As established by Pierre Bourdieu ("Efectos" 4) and Harvey (The Urban 118), this struggle defines access to the resources required for market capacity. In other words, the appropriation of downtown Bogota ensured not only the reproduction of profit for the elite but also the subsistence of the lumpenproletariat through informal labor. In terms of capital flow, Osorio's tenement and its practices are obstacles for the establishment of an elite, reified place: a physical setting of valued social activity and relations (Tuan 17; Massey 121; Giddens 18). Along with blocking Olano's and Brunner's initiatives of developing a downtown place for commerce, art, hygiene, and luxury, the places where the subaltern socialized affected the circulation of surplus through the use of the city's space.

The poor's urban way of life also interfered in the flow of capital in a different way. Chicha drinking and communal housing in the center prevented the establishment of a disciplined working class and a consumer population for the local market-based industry. The renters of Osorio's house manage their own work schedules; some are "[...] mujeres, de esas que venden viveres en el mercado [...] entran muy tarde y que a veces llegan borrachas [...]" (Osorio 22). There is also a shoemaker "[...] que se emborracha los domingos [...]" (Osorio 22), and the unemployed typographer who wanders the downtown streets trying to find a job. In addition to their lack of technical skills, these characters do not have the style of time management or discipline required to work in a factory. Furthermore, they lack the stable income required to absorb the goods produced in the city and for the city. In this sense, the communal living and the consumption of chicha that took place in the house unconsciously resisted the capitalist order. The collective social rhythms and the use of time characteristic of the lumpenproletariat prevented the production of surplus through the exploitation of labor. In addition, in its lack of a formal job in a factory or business, or a stable income, the population prevented the accumulation of capital through consumption.

The representation of the tenants' inefficiency arises in a moment when artisanally produced chicha was the main rival on the market for the beer produced by one of the biggest factories in the city, the German brewery Bavaria (established in 1889). Chicha not only undisciplined the potential labor force, it also was highly consumed. Between 1889 and 1900, Bavaria sponsored the printing of thousands of brochures demonizing the regional drink. Messages like "la chicha embrutece" and "la chicha engrendra el crimen," superimposed on images of Afro-descendants and indigenous people, flooded the city (Gonzalez and Alegria 196).

This racialized and spatialized propaganda against the regional drink established a relationship between places and practices that is evident in the reflections of Osorio's typographer. While the character imagines himself employed, he daydreams of drinking beer in a restaurant (Osorio 45). However, after becoming a beggar, he expects to drink "[...] chicha y licores abyectos!" (Osorio 145). This division reveals the market logic behind the stigmatization of spaces of popular socialization carried out in Olano's and Brunner's plans. The association of the regional drink with the identity of homeless persons and of beer with that of businesspeople tells us that the discourses of hygiene that supported the demolition of popular housing and the eradication of chicherias looked to ensure the absorption and accumulation of capital for the local industry. If people did not want to be beggars but instead clean employees, it was necessary that they consume beer and quit drinking regional fermented beverages.

Urban renewal justified by the imperative of public health generated an awareness that, in addition to increasing value to the land, aimed for people to abandon regional patterns of consumption. Osorio's tenants are fighting what Harvey refers to as the urbanization of consciousness, or individuals' internalization of a '"rational landscape' within which [...] accumulation [...] can proceed" (The Urban 229). The novel presents this phenomenon in a dialectic formula: every achievement of urban consciousness is met with a counterhegemonic resistance. On the one hand, urban consciousness materializes when economic forces drive the marginal identities from the tenement. Juana moves to a cheaper place in Las Cruces: a neighborhood that received the exodus of industries and workers in 1930 (Alvarez 56) and the typographer is expulsed to the streets of downtown. This movement of the residents refers to a gradual transformation of the urban everydayness that ensures the establishment of a new class of consumers in the tenement's area. However, the city faces the people's reaction to the mechanisms of capital: the woman (Juana) continues to live in the area, moving to a cheaper zone in the pericenter, while the typographer, as a residual of capital, appropriates the downtown public space as an anonymous beggar.

Capitalist urban planning generates its own spatial counterpart. Wandering in the streets, the typographer accepts that he will never be able to catch up with "la ciudad moderna y, puesto que todo se cierra frente a mi [su] perspectiva, me [se] abadonarefa] al curso del azar." (Osorio 145). The identities cast aside by the ambitions of urbanization take revenge via their ability to decrease the economic value of land. The luxury hotels, cafes, offices, and business are now the households of those expelled by the power of rent. A foreign visitor in 1929, Alcides Arguedas, described the streets of the city as full of "Las gentes del pueblo [...] con alpargatas, o con los pies desnudos [...] los mendigos abundan" (qtd. in Castro-Carvajal 7). Just like the typographer in the novel, members of the lumpenproletariat no longer hid their unwanted labor force, corporality, and lifestyle behind the walls of the tenement but exposed it to the public gaze. The typographer, the identity rejected by the politics of capital and urbanization in downtown Bogota, ends up appropriating that space for himself. The tenement's inhabitants' practices of survival have overshadow the incisive spatial reproduction of capital.

The appropriation of the administrative center by the typographer at the end of the novel foresees the future pauperization of Los Martires and the subsequent process of what Neil Smith defines as degentrification, meaning the transfer of the elite's places from the center to other areas of the city (207). The introduction in Los Martires of the first airport serving the city in 1930 and the establishment of a national system of highways caused Sabana the train station to lose its appeal. In the 1940s, tenements, food markets, and auto repair shops replaced the area's cafes, restaurants, and nice hotels (Castiblanco Roldan 285). Fleeing the congestion of the downtown, the rich moved to the quieter neighborhoods of the north, shifting the location of their exclusive gathering spaces. In the 1940s, Los Martires, previously a symbol of modernity and progress, became a neighborhood for peasants, beggars, low-income workers, prostitutes, and tenement houses. Closing his novel with a vignette that shows the typographer begging in the streets, Osorio reflects a planned city that will always struggle with the subaltern.

As has been suggested by David Harvey, urbanization and capital present themselves as a constant cycle of destruction and rebirth (The Urban 123). At any of these stages, Osorio's novel shows how the subaltern's places of socialization, such as tenements and chicherias, refused to disappear despite the pressure imposed by capital. This persistence has a political implication in the novel's historical movement because in early twentiethcentury Bogota, chicherias and tenements were centers of popular mobilization (Restrepo 93). It was in the chicherias around el Parque de Los Martires where the artisans organized their 1893 protest against the newspaper Colombia Cristiana (Joven Borello 111). The popular march objecting to the purchase of foreign uniforms for the national army was also born at chicherias in 1919 (Vega Cantor 82). Along with being an obstacle for Olano's and Brunner's urban renewal projects, these spaces of gathering of the subaltern were a means for popular urban mobilization. Furthermore, through people's practices, they imposed a space of urban cultural contestation, immersed in the "antagonistic manipulation of the meanings given to the urban system in the way of living and inhabiting the city" (Certeau 100). Drinking chicha, sharing houses with multiple individuals, and begging in the streets symbolically dislocated the urban consciousness common to the city's hegemonic inhabitants. The concentration of practices that were catalogued as immoral and forbidden shaped an unconscious communal solidarity that forced capitalism to rethink its imagined spaces.

Final Considerations

By placing his novel in a poor tenement house in the downtown area, Osorio criticized the urban planning projects for Bogota that emerged in the early twentieth century. The building represents the constant struggle of the poor to remain in the center of the city despite the government's initiatives to segregate them. During a period of local stagnation due to the US economic crisis, the location of the house in the heart of the administrative center exposes the way urbanization helped the circulation of capital. Olano's and Brunner's urban renewal projects supported the devaluation of cultural practices, such as chicha consumption and tenement housing, to destroy the value of fixed capital in the form of the house. The new parks, avenues, businesses, and demolitions proposed by the planners endowed the existing space with a different sociocultural value and raised its economic price. These projects alienated the tenement house's residents because they could not pay the rent now attached to their former households, making the sector only suitable for the bourgeoisie.

While at the time, Colombian writers focused their novels on rural communities, Osorio was interested in exploring the misery of the working class in the big city. The high degree of social realism of his texts, usually crystalized in the sluggish pace of descriptions of the material conditions in which characters lived and in characters with little psychological depth, has been appraised as a stylistic limitation (Luque de Pena 167; Cobo Borda 84). Nevertheless, for some scholars, and I agree with this point of view, the gradual pacing of the characterizations, as well as of the narration, "tiene una funcion structural, which is [...] limitar y dilatar los desenlaces del sufrimiento de personajes frustrados [...]" (Neira-Palacios 23). I add that the portrayal of stagnant characters and the fact that only few of them have psychological depth express the marginality of the spaces inhabited by the working class. Both the spaces and identities of the subaltem lack power in the official decision-making process of the city.

Osorio's narration of the city was committed to denouncing the insensitivity of modern society and the injustices it inflicted. Although La casa de vecindad did not have a very broad dissemination, it probably was the center of discussion in his political gatherings with friends. Osorio had a very active political life, including a close friendship with the popular liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan and a collaborative relationship with the Argentine populist leader Juan Domingo Peron. His work was tied to a political project that aimed for social equality and the end of economic exploitation. Osorio's self-recognition as a leftliberal (Vanderhuck 91) is clearly reflected in the themes of his novels such as La casa de vecindad, La cara de la miseria (1926), and Hombres sin presente-novela de empleados publicos (1938), which openly denounce the socioeconomic injustices visited upon the poor. Through these representations, Osorio created class consciousness and showed the reader that the masses share a problem whose resolution requires collective popular action.

The portrayal of Bogota's poor as an active population that fought for their place in the city in early twentieth-century Bogota, seeking to escape their marginality. La casa de vecindad reveals that the the process of shaping the city's socio-spatial organization was exclusively managed by dominant groups, but that marginal identities actively participated in this process through their daily acts. More so, they forced economic capital to rethink its mechanisms of reproduction by constantly reacting against these.

Recently, critics have been reappraising Osorio as one of the most representative social writers of the twentieth century. In 2013, his family published three novels that had not previously been well circulated (Forero-Baron, "Jose Antonio"), among them La casa de vecindad. Although more than half a century has passed since the first publication of this novel, the urban poor in Bogota continue to face the same spatial struggles depicted by the author in the 1930s. In the last fifteen years, two downtown areas known as El Cartucho and Bronx have been shut down and demolished in 2000 and 2016 respectively. The government labeled both areas as foci of criminality and violence that needed to be eliminated. Avenues, parks, and malls are replacing these sectors. Further research should ask whether these latest plans for urban renewal were premised on and justified by a process of criminalization of popular cultural practices. It is also pertinent to explore the ways in which the poor who inhabited these sectors are collectively resisting the spatial changes.

To this day, chicha and tenements are a part of Bogota's popular culture. Chicha has, however, been transformed in a process of refinement that has made it the focus of city tours, museums, and gourmet venues. All these events take place in artistic bohemian downtown areas such as La Candelaria, which, has gained notoriety as a meeting? place for intellectuals over the last several years. The Festival de la chicha, la vida, y la dicha de La Perseverancia, an annual event celebrated in the downtown working-class neighborhood of La Perseverancia, gathers artisans that seek to honor the ancestral drink. For a brief period of time, the event, organized with the participation of the local government and of institutions such as the Universidad Javeriana, transcends the hierarchies of urban spaces, attracting people from different backgrounds and latitudes to a marginal place. In 2014, The Agreement Project No 11 designated the drink and the festivity as part of the cultural heritage of Bogota. Chicha has become a trendy beverage that is even researched by international anthropologists, and the banner for a a cultural celebration that is open to all. A new question arises from the transformation of the drink: how has chicha, the criminalized beverage, been appropriated by capitalism to conquer those spaces that had previously resisted it?

Katherine Anson

Wittenberg University

Works Cited

Alba-Castro, Jose Miguel. "The Bogota Futuro Plan: The First Urban Modernization Attempt." Anuario colombiano de historia social y de las ciencias 40.2 (2013): 179-208.

Alcaldia Mayor de Bogota. Agreement No 480, November 10, 1936. Web. 1 May 2016.

--. Agreement Project No 11, January 1, 2004. Web. 31 Oct. 2018.

--. Diagnostico fisico y socioeconomicode las localidades de Bogota, D.C. "Recorriendo Los Martires." 2004. Web. 6 May 2017.

Alvarez, Julieta. La transformacion del barrio Las Cruces y su consolidacion como borde urbano durante el siglo XX. Bogota: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2016 Web. 16 July 2016.

Amezquita, Antonio. "Barrios obreros Bogotanos." Urbanismos 2 (2007): 93-103. Web. 21 June 2016.

Arango, Mariano. Cafe e industria 1850-1930. Bogota: Carlos Valencia Editores, 1979.

Barbosa Cruz, Mario. "Proyectos de modernizacion y urbanizacion en Mexico y Bogota, 1880-1930." Memoria y sociedad 9.19 (2014): 19-33. Web 2 March 2016.

Bernal, Maria Idaly. La genesis social de Colombia a traves de la novela "La casa de vecindad" de Jose Antonio Osorio Lizarazo. Pereira, Col. Universidad Tecnologica de Pereria, 2016. Web. 1 March 2016.

Bourdieu, Pierre. "Efectos de lugar." Quaderns d'arquitectura i urbanisme 2002 (2002): 28-37. Web 7 July 2016.

Brunner, Karl H. Manual de urbanismo (.Bogota 1939). New York: Routledge, 2015.

Calvo-Isaza, Oscar. "Literatura y nacionalismo: la novela de Jose Antonio Osorio Lizarazo". Anuario colombiano de historia social v de !a cultura 36.2 (2009): 91-119. Web. 3 May 2016.

--, and Marta Saade. La ciudad en cuarentena. Chicha: patologia social y profilaxis. Bogota: Ministerio de Cultura de Colombia, 2002.

Cardeno-Mejia, Freddy. Historia de! desarrollo urbano del centro de Bogota (localidad de Los Martires). Bogota: Alcaldia Mayor de Bogota D.C., 2007. Web. 27 Aug 2016.

Castells, Manuel. The City and the Grassroots: A Cross-Cultural Theory of Urban Social Movements. Berkeley: U of California P, 1983.

--. The Urban Question: A Marxist Approach. London: Arnold, 1977.

Castiblanco Roldan, Fernando. "La estacion de la Sabana, el tren en los espacios, los imaginarios y la historia de Bogota." Universidad Distrital Francisco Jose de Caldas (2011): 1-12. Biblioteca Digital Univalle. Web. 3 Feb 2017.

Castro-Carvajal, Beatriz. "La pobreza en-Colombia. 1886-1930. Estado, iglesia y ciudadanos." Ponencia LASA. Universidad del Valle, 1997.

Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans, Steven Randall. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984.

Cobo Borda, Juan Gustavo. La tradicion de la pobreza. Bogota: Valencia Editores, 1980.

Colon, Luis Carlos. "El sanamiento del Paseo Bolivar y la vivienda obrera en Bogota." Urbanismos 2 (2005): 104-15. Web. 9 Jan 2018.

Cortes-Solano, Rodrigo. "Del urbanismo a la planeacion en Bogota (1900-1990)." Bitacora 11.1 (2007): 160-213. Web. 7 Feb 2017.

Cualla, Higinio. "Informe del Alcade de Bogota, 1893. " El telegrama, no 2156, Jan. 4, 1894.

Duquino Rojas, Luis Gabriel. "Ideologia politica e ideologia urbana, el caso del movimiento moderno en Bogota (1930-1950)." Territorios 35 (2016): 195-229. Web. 23 June 2016.

Empresa inmobliaria Virgilio Barco. "Ministerios." 3 May, 2007.

Forero-Baron, Fabian. "Jose Antonio Osorio, el cronista olvidado de Bogota." El tiempo 17 April 2013: no pag. Web. 6 March 2016.

Giddens, Anthony. T he Consequences of Modernity. Oxford: Polity P, 1990.

Gonzalez-Stephan. "Escritura y modernizacion: La domesticacion de la barbarie." Revista iberoamericana 60.166 (1994): 109-24. Web. 8 January 2016.

Gonzalez William, and Alegria Fernando. "Foucault and the Noso-politic Pedagogy of Biomedical Discourses in Colombia Between Late Nineteenth Century and Early Twentieth Century." Praxis filosofica, n.s. 36 (2013): 163-201. Web. 8 July 2017.

Gutierrez Isaza, Ignacio. "Mendicidad." Colombia cristiana 1893: no pag.

Harvey, David. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. New York: Verso, 2013.

--. Social Justice and the City. Hoboken: Blackwell, 1988.

--. The Urban Experience. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1989.

--. The Urbanization of Capital: Studies in the History and Theory of Capitalist Urbanization. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 1985.

Henao, Diana Carolina and Juana Manuela Gomez. "El impacto de la Gran Depresion en el sector industrial colombiano durante el periodo 1923 a 1936." Grafias Disciplinares de la UCPUCP 13 (2011): 7-12. Web. 5 May 2017.

"Historia del poblamiento de Los Martires." Bogota: Alcaldia de Bogota, 2012. Web 12 April 2018.

"Informe del Director de Policia de Bogota". El ariete 8 Sept. 1912: no pag.

Joven Bonello, Ana Maria. "Busqueda y reivindicacion de una imagen social respetable." Ciencia politica, 6.11 (2011): 101-27. Web 7 March 2017.

Kurla, Eric. "Chicha-An Andean Identity." Ohio State University. Web 12 April 2018.

LeGrand, Catherine. "Legal Narratives of Citizenship, the Social Question, and Public Order in Colombia, 1915-1930 and after." Citizenship Studies 17.5 (2013): 530-50. Web. 12 July 2017.

Lozano y Lozano, Juan. "El pueblo obrero de Bogota." Registro Municipal de Bogota 73 (1936): 54.

Luque de Pena, Myriam. "La novela de Jose Antonio Osorio Lizarazo." Gran enciclopedia de Colombia. Bogota: Circulo de Lectores, 1996. 237-40; 245-47.

Massey, Doreen B. Spatial Divisions of Labour: Social Structures and the Geography of Production. New York: Routledge, 1995.

McGovern, Patrick. "Chicha." Biomolecular Archeology Project. Penn Museum. Web 24 March 2018. Mejia-Pavony, German. Los anos del cambio: Historia urbana de Bogota, 1820-1910. Bogota: Centro Editorial Javeriano, 1998.

Mejia-Pavony, German. Los anos del cambio: Historia urbana de Bogota, 1820-1910. Bogota: Centro Editorial Javeriano, 1998.

Morales, Martha. "Inquilinatos, la otra realidad de la vivienda." El tiempo 24 July 2010: no pag. Web. 15 April 2017.

Neira-Palacios, Edison. La gran ciudad latinoamericana: Bogota en la obra de Jose Antonio Osorio. Medellin: Universidad Eafit, 2004. Web. 12 June 2016.

Olano, Ricardo. Memorias. Tomos Iy II. Medellin: Eafit, 2004.

Osorio, Jose Antonio. La casa de vecindad. Bogota: Laguna Libros, 2013.

Perdue, Robert and Joshua Sbicca. "Protest Through Presence: Spatial Citizenship and Identity Formation in Contestations of Neoliberal Crises." Social Movement Studies 13.3 (2014): 309-27. Web. 2 March 2017.

Puentes Melo, Ricardo. "De la chicha a la cerveza. Historia de Bogota, parte 5." Periodismo sin fronteras 25 Nov. 2013: no pag. Web. 3 Jan. 2018.

Pickvance, Chris. "The Rise and Fall of Urban Movements and the Role of Comparative Analysts." Society and Space 3 (1985): 31-53. Web. Jan. 17 2017.

Rawitscher, Peter. "Vistiendo y desvistiendo la modernidad: el centro de Bogota en los siglos XIX y XX." Memorias hegemonicas, memorias desidentes: El pasado como politica de la historia. Ed. C. Gnecco and M. Zambrano. Bogota: ICAN, 2000. 285-318.

Restrepo, Estela. "Vagos, enfermos y valetudinarios, Bogota: 1830-1860." Historia y Sociedad 8 (2002): 83-127. Web. 28 Aug. 2017.

Resolution no. 11, 2013 Anuncio proyecto "Ministerios". Bogota: Empresa Virgilio Barco 2013. Web. 17 Jan 2018.

Romero, Jose Luis. Latinoamerica: las ciudades y las ideas. Medellin: Universidad de Antioquia, 1999.

Salazar, Juan Carlos. Imagen de ciudad en la novela La casa de vecindad (1930) de Jose Antonio Osorio. Pereira: Universidad Tecnologica de Pereira, 2009.

Scott, James. "Everyday Forms of Resistance". Copenhagen Papers 4.89 (2008): 33-62. Web. 8 Jan 2016.

Smith, Neil. The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Sowell, David. Population Growth in Late-Nineteenth-Century Bogota: Insights on a Demographic Dilemma. Journal of Urban History 38.4 (2012): 720-30. Web 15 July 2018.

Tuan, Yi-fu. Space and Place. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977.

Vanderhuck, Felipe. La literatura como oficio: Jose Antonio Osorio Lizarazo 1930-1946. Cali: Universidad ICESI, 2012.

Vega Cantor, Renan. Gente muy rebelde. Mujeres, artesanos y protestas civicas. Bogota: Ediciones Pensamiento Critico, 2002. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.

Villanueva Martinez, Orlando. "El levantamiento artesanal de 1893 en Bogota." Biofilo panclasta el eterno prisionero: aventuras y desventuras de un anarquista colombiano. Bogota: Ediciones Proyecto Cultural Alas de Xue, 1992.

Volkening, Ernesto. "Literatura y gran ciudad." Eco 143 (1972): 323-52.

Weitz, Rose. "Women and Their Hair. Seeking Power Through Resistance and Accommodation." Gender and Society 15.5 (2001): 667-86. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City. New York: Oxford UP, 1975.

(1) Chicha is an Andean beverage of indigenous origin that is made of fermented corn and was mostly consumed by the lower class in the early twentieth century. A study conducted in 1913 calculated that people in Bogota drank 35,000 liters of chicha per day (Vega Cantor 92). Archeologists believe that the consumption of chicha dates back to 5,000 B.C, and that it originally had a social meaning related to religion and social stratification (Kurla, "Chicha--An Andean Identity.")

(2) Empresa inmobiliaria Virgilio Barco (
COPYRIGHT 2019 Chasqui
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2019 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Anson, Katherine
Date:May 1, 2019

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters