August 6th, 2009, thousands of Colombians gathered in Bogota's Parque Simon Bolivar enthusiastically wrigle their hips on Gilberto Santa Rosa's salsa. On that very day, Bogota celebrates its 471th birthday. Tremendous experience.
As a matter of fact, this is not the first concert Bogota offers to its citizens. Two weeks ago, in order to celebrate Colombia and its "cry of independence" (july 20th), the government also organized a series of concerts; allowing some dozens of Colombian artists to perform all over the country. In Bogota, many more of these events are yet to come, following the same generous scheme: although each concert hosts nationally and internationally well-known artists, each show is completely free.
Free, yes, but under one sensible condition: the non-possesion of arms. A fact that is thoroughly verified at the entrance while the army, spread all around the park, keeps an eye on the crowds. However impressive that image may be to a foreigner, soldiers, here in the city, generally fade into the background. And although (or perhaps parly because) illegal sellers of aguardiente (local licor) abound amongst the dancers, nothing there alters the overall happiness.
Commemorating important historical date and national unity with music, in a country where regionalism remains a strong component of identity, appears to be a wise call. Even though the numerous spectators may have been more obsessed with G. Santa Rosa's lyrics than the two events Colombia was about to celebrate: 6th of july, Bogota's birthday (beginning of the Festival de Verano), 7th of july, the battle of Boyaca ( a decisive battle in the national war of independence against the Spanish) a concert open to all, added to the following national holiday, probably manages to bring a people together in more efficient ways than long rumbling speeches...