Oli’s big topic: Everyone needs a bit of Parklife

By Oli Pritchard April 9, 2021

The capital’s restrictions don’t affect everyone the same way.

Let’s hope Bogotá parks don’t close again as the city tries to minimise the damage of a third spike. Photo: Oli Pritchard

The new restrictions coming into place this weekend are touted as affecting everyone equally. It certainly looks that way on paper, but dig a little deeper and one turns up some unsettling problems. Previous lockdowns have restricted access to public spaces that are vital outlets for many. Specifically, municipal parks.

At the crux of the problem is this: while the restrictions might have been the same for everyone, we all have different resources with which to deal with it. Equally, we’re not all in the same position when it comes to our free time. Neither do we follow the same pursuits.

Parks, closing affects everyone equally, sure. It overlooks, though, the fact that the parks of Bogotá are not used in the same way by all. For those in cramped accommodation, the parks provide a critical venue for large gatherings. Those gatherings now will likely still take place, but indoors — even though any form of gathering is frowned upon right now. They’ll be far less pleasant, and far more likely to potentially spread the virus. 

The parks are only closed at the weekend, too. So it’s fine to do your tennis practice midweek, if you’re lucky enough to do the sort of job that allows you time to do so. In a country where many people work hard for six days a week, that’s simply not possible for large swathes of society. Also, tennis is unsurprisingly practised a lot more by richer people than poorer in the first place. The one day the Parque Nacional tennis courts really open up in normal times? Sunday. Ah. 

Photo: Oli Pritchard

Of course, bars and restaurants will be open Tues-Fri, which is good news. Again though, it’s for those that have the option for midweek jollies. Of course, these places are also only accessible to those that can pay for them. Parks, on the other hand, are one of the few places all can access for free, where the activities within are also free. Neither is there discrimination at the door – no face check and no implied class barrier. 

The message seems to be that the economically active are welcome to go out and carry on as before, even if it’s actually more likely to spread the virus. But to go to the park and simply walk is to be discouraged, as you’re not useful to the economy. Are we all making sacrifices for protection against the virus or are we allowing people to pay for an opt-out?

Let’s not forget, either, the localised lockdowns. They’ve not been discounted this time round, and last time those zones were centered in the south. Of course, that’s been true throughout the localised lockdown periods in Bogotá.

To be clear, I do not think that these restrictions were aimed at the poorer people in society, neither do I think that there’s a viciousness to it. I simply think that no-one in the mayor’s office has bothered to think about the outcomes of their decisions. After all, why should they? Their lives won’t be affected.