After the first few days of me being in Colombia again visiting with her family and eating too much of her mother's food, Diana planned for us to do tours of a couple of Bogota and national-government buildings.
Bogota is the capital of Colombia and all of the major government buildings are either on, or within a few blocks of, the Plaza Bolivar, which is the historical center of the city. The first tour we took was of the Lievano building, which is the French-style building to the right of the Christmas tree and the second was at the National Capital building, which is to the left of the Christmas tree:
Colombia's been trying to be more open and available to its citizens and one of the things that it's done is to open many of the government buildings to the public by offering tours. The Lievano building tour didn't end up being too interesting. It houses the offices of the Bogota-city government and the tour only covered the central courtyard and didn't go inside the building at all. It'd probably have been much more interesting if the women's prison, which was there prior to this building, was still open and had tours...
Our second tour was of the Capitolio Nacional (National Capital), which is the Colombian equivalent of the U.S. Capital in Washington, D.C. Perhaps following the influence of Antoni Gaudi and his Sagrada Familia, construction started in 1848 and finished in 1926.
The stone capital building, like its United States counterpart, serves as the offices and meeting places for both houses of congress. The Colombian senate has 102 representatives, 100 of which come from a single national ballot (I so wanted to write ballet instead!), and the remaining two representing the indigenous peoples.
The Colombian House of Representatives currently has 166 members, which are elected based on a formula that includes a minimum per department (state) plus a factor for population. As the population of Colombia increases, the number of representatives increases. The representatives meet in the room below, which has a mural by Santiago Martinez Delgado showing the founding of Colombia. The mural, which was politically charged at the time of its creation, is one of the highlights of the tour.
It was kinda' fun to watch the congressional proceedings. There were a couple of people paying close attention to the speeches that were being given but, for the most part, people were (loudly) having conversations, drinking coffee, looking at their smartphones, or just walking around. It wasn't as chaotic as when they show something from England but it wasn't nearly as orderly I expected...
Diana doing her best to look like an elected official working on official government business:
The tour was great and led by an excellent guide who seemed to allow us a lot of freedom. At one point, we had the chance to use the congressional bathrooms!
The final part of the tour took us through the tunnel that connects the Capital building to the congressional offices across the street. While our guide was summarizing, one of the more popular and approachable senators (or so I was told) who was also formerly the president of the senate (sort of like Joe Biden is currently in the U.S.), Aurelio Iragorri Hormaza, stopped to talk to our group. Our guide told him a little about the group (mostly Colombians, a couple of Dominicans, and me) and he immediately singled me out and started asking me about California. We spoke for about a minute and I was able to get my photo with him. Super cool!
I actually learned quite a bit about the Colombian government on the tour and would recommend taking it. Bonus if you get your photo with a senator!