BOGOTÁ SEEMS AS UNLIKELY a place as any to explore the semiotics of cement. But the city’s historic monuments help me sort out the culture on display, one historic figure at a time.
How often have I strolled by the bust of a dead guy on a pedestal and wondered, “What did he do to win the lottery?” In familiar haunts it’s easy to forget such thoughts, but when I’m a traveler, the destination is my puzzle and the artifacts are pieces of the jigsaw.
Historical monuments of notables or events can serve like informers from the past, whispering — sometimes hammering — a story into my ear. As an amateur archaeologist I’m free to speculate (with extreme prejudice) on the meaning of my cultural excavation.
Bogotá’s public statues often seem linked to the ancient world, with their flowing, toga-like garb. But in fact they reveal the city’s relationship to a comparatively more modern history, following the Spanish colonization of the 16th century.