Visiting Rosa Elvira Cely’s memorial at Parque Nacional in Bogotá

Last weekend I was in Bogotá. It was a personal trip to visit some friends. Bogotá is a special place: it was the first place I arrived after leaving Honduras in 1993. I lived 11 years before I left to study abroad.

I stayed at a friend’s house near the Parque Nacional, a big beautiful park close to the downtown area. I wanted to go for a specific reason: I wanted to visit the memorial of Rosa Elvira Cely.

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(Memorial Rosa Elvira Cely, Parque Nacional Bogotá, Colombia. Photo: Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera)

The death of Rosa Elvira Cely is one of the most horrible crimes I have ever read. Five years ago, in the spot where there’s a memorial in her name, Rosa was found by the police, half nude, stabbed in the back, beat, raped in the most unimaginable way by a man she had knee and went out to drink the night before. He left her there to die, yet she managed to call the police from her cell phone in the early hours. The police found her, took her to hospital where Rosa died some days later unable to survive the wounds.

The man who did this to Rosa is in jail. Rosa was able give a description of the man to the police. What happened to Rosa Elvira Cely shocked the country. In 2015, the law that penalizes femicide -known as Ley 1751 Rosa Elvira Cely- was approved. This was good news. However, femicides had been already occurring in the country before Rosa, and it makes me sad that it took Rosa’s horrendous crime and death to pass this law.

Standing at her memorial, I thought about her and me and the many women who are and feel unsafe in the cities. I remembered the times I used to go the Parque Nacional…during the day of course. At night, never. Nor any other park in Bogotá. It was normal to avoid ‘dark’ places in the city…you crossed the street when you spotted a group (of what looked like men) walking on your same sidewalk. I learned to move around the city during the night, always trying to move in the ‘safe’ places.

And yet, it shouldn’t be like this for women (or anyone): always trying to find safe places to move around in the city. As one of the women activists I interviewed last week in Medellin: “Isn’t it absurd, that in the 21st century, we are unsafe in the city? Isn’t absurd that we are beat, raped, oppressed, subordinated in public spaces, in our homes?”.

As I left the Rosa Elvira’s memorial, I looked around and wondered to what extent the way that park was built (e.g. lack of light) favored the hate-crime against her? Cities can be a dangerous place for women: it’s real, it happens and frequently.

Memorial Rosa

 

 

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(Memorial Rosa Elvira Cely, Parque Nacional Bogotá, Colombia. Photo: Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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