I had already heard about this place several months ago, but I did not know how to get there, when to go and much less what to expect. The day came, or better the night, a Thursday, an ordinary working day. With the patch that I was wearing and after finishing the working day and thinking about what to do on a Thursday night in Bogota, one of them suggested going to the Herbs Square, I lived in the neighborhood and it happened that none of the other friends knew the Herbs Square: -well let's go! We said -, because a marketplace plan was out of any scheme and we decided to go. I remember that we walked around the neighborhood several times before we found the entrance, at that time past eleven o'clock at night all the streets looked the same, there were almost no people circulating and the truth is there was little lighting. There were thoughts that arose after the stigmatization generated towards the neighborhood and towards the locality by those who do not inhabit them, regarding the apparent insecurity, the loneliness of its streets and even the crime that can, in theory, be experienced if you visit. However, a few meters before arriving, atypical aromas began to be felt, natural perfumes, smells of the mountains, of the forest, of granny's aromatic water (the kind that relieves all pain). We entered the street 22b, there was a lot of movement of goods, trucks, freighters and the minute and red station on the corner. Indeed, entering the square was like traveling to an unknown dimension, a place that one definitely does not expect to find in the heart of the metropolis, in the middle of buildings, avenues, buses, noise and even chaos, but there it was, the jewel to the crown, the Herbs Square.
The first thing you see are piles of plants arranged one on top of the other in small mounds in the center of the square that is the square, which is worth mentioning that during the day it works as a parking lot and restaurant. One begins to walk, guided more by the smell than anything else, and meets mostly grandparents, who guard their merchandise, clothed from head to toe, covered by the usual ruana, some closing their eyes, others drinking aromatic tea, talking or simply being willing to dispatch the sale. There are found from aromatic herbs such as chamomile, calendula or citron in lumps or bundles; small trunks such as valerian, some fruits especially from cold soil, even vegetables; aloe leaves, totumo, coca and one begins to discover a myriad of plants that you did not even know existed, such as the Bretonic and the Destrancadera (both used in bathrooms or cleaning rooms) and the paramuno rosemary, among many others. One can’t stay long standing in front of a post because there is a freighter passing by carrying packages on wooden roads, they go from there to here. In one corner is the altar of the Virgin of Carmen, decorated with flowers and fruits, and on the sides are the stores: a couple of arepas and food stalls, some groceries and the most visited esoteric stores. In them you get the most unexpected items, soaps for good luck, ties for the loved one, incense, colored candles and even foreign currency bills to attract money. In one of them, Don José attends, who has been in the square for more than 20 years and points out concoctions, recipes and potions that have brought his family forward.
Behind all that magic visible to all the senses, there are also stories of resistance by its vendors in a great majority of older adults, invisibility, indifference by other markets and agricultural collection centers in the city and ignorance. But in the end, a lot of hope in the sale of cold land herbs takes place mostly on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 at night to 5 in the morning.
All that remains is to invite residents and travelers of Bogota to let themselves be surprised by an unexplored universe and to experience firsthand this perfect marriage between nature and culture typical of this square. Ah! And who takes away the chance of a miracle for you being performed...
Cover Photo: Portfolios uniandes
Internal Photo: Alcaldía Local Los Mártires