By Laura Santamaría (3rd semester FIGRI student, level 4 English)
La Candelaria is the place that receives the most tourists in Bogotá. Both foreigners and people from all over Colombia feel a great attraction towards this place due to its colonial architecture and because it is the place where, in 1538, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada founded Bogotá in the heart of La Candelaria, the Chorro de Quevedo square.
However, there are fascinating stories that most people don’t know about, and the truth is that La Candelaria’s ghosts have been present in this area for more than 400 years. They are a traditional part of the neighbourhood, and accepted by the area’s inhabitants.
La Candelaria’s ghost stories start in the block of flats, Calle del Sol, which hides the walls and foundations of the infamous Colombian Intelligence Service (CIS). There, as its inhabitants report, at night it is possible to hear moans and the lamentations of souls in pain, which belong to people who were tortured to death to force them to confess their crimes. “Late at night, we hear shouting and moans and also blows like lashes and guffaws,” says one resident of the area.
Just one block from there, in the square that today occupies the place of a colonial house, the ghost of a blond boy with blue eyes appears early in the morning, carrying breadcrumbs to feed to the pigeons. The legend says that this child believed himself to be the prince of the pigeons. He fed them every day and did not allow anyone to harm them. Even now, the neighbours say that anyone who annoys the pigeons, throws stones at them, or is cruel to them, “has a very bad night,” because the ghost does not let them sleep.
On calle 11, no. 3-90 is the home of the famous painter Gregario Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos whose figure, covered by a black cape, runs through the inner courtyard, where he has also been seen mashing flowers to extract the vegetable paints that he used to make his religiously-themed paintings.
There is also a place in La Candelaria, known for centuries as “the bandit’s house”. This was the house of Dr. José Raimundo Russi, who was shot in 1851 for the murder of Manuelito Ferro, stabbed at the entrance to this house. Ferro’s cries of horror and the sound of his murder are still heard in the dawn in La Candelaria.
But the most awful and horrible of La Candelaria’s ghosts appears in Carrera 4, no. 10-14. This is the home of Viceroy Sámano, who was historically hated because of his anger when facing the Colombian patriots. The lame and humble figure of the old viceroy, his unpleasant spitting and above all the clacking sound of his heels, continues to shock unprepared bystanders who dare to walk on the sidewalk in the wee hours of the morning.
All these stories are part of the history of La Candelaria that few people know. Exploring them is an adventure for all who want to experience the horror of these stories in Bogotá’s icy nights.