As in all of the Latin America that I know, Bogotá joins the ranks of security obsessed. In front of every shopping mall, there are always a gaggle of security dudes sewn into pseudo-Army styled uniforms, with dogs ready to turn a snarl on a moment’s notice. It’s not just window dressing either, they don’t mess around here - every car that goes into a public parking garage is searched and sniffed, presumably for explosives.
Now granted, here in Colombia (unlike some other places that are security obsessed) stability and a non-violent existence are relatively recent developments. A friend here in Bogotá shared numerous stories with me as we walked through downtown a week or two ago, pointing out buildings that have been rebuilt after being torn to bits by explosives, even a tale about a classmate from school that was left maimed by a paramilitary’s mistaken bomb. Just tragic, especially considering that this all happened less than 15 years ago.
This security obsession doesn’t just extend to public places. Every apartment building has a doorman. Doormen range from scruffy looking guys that spend more time sleeping then guarding to the starched, pressed and proper variety. Regardless of appearance or work habits, they are all stunningly polite (a la Colombians in general). It’s a nice touch overall, except for one thing… you don’t have a key to the front door of the building. Yes, people. You don’t have a key to the place where you live!
It may be a matter of security (making sure there are no duplicates made, allowing the unauthorized to enter) but I find it a little much. This over-secured mentality seems to make me a little more paranoid and a little more edgy, which trust me… I don’t really need.
I also think this affects the psyche of people. While people in Latin America generally lean on the side of the over-security obsessed, I have heard endless cautions from nearly ever person I have met about taxis (always, but not from the street) and walking at night (don’t do it, ever). Now I know Bogotá ain’t Kansas, but c’mon people. The US is plenty sketchy. Ever been to Washington DC? I think it had the highest murder rate before Bogotá snatched the honor away years ago. But no more. These days it’s Caracas, Venezuela that’s taking the honors.
Whatever. Ultimately, it’s just annoying when you have a slacker door guy, it’s super late, you’ve had a few and you need to pee.