Colombia’s capital of Bogota certainly has its fair share of tourist attractions, but the leftist-graffiti-filled National University has remained off the typical tourist itinerary.
Founded in 1867, after the humanist politician Jose Maria Samper issued a successful bill to Congress, the university grew over the years and is now home to 40,000 undergraduate students and 8,000 graduates that attend classes in the campus’ white concrete buildings that has earned it the name the “white city.”
Within the 300 acre confines of the country’s largest university, splashed onto its concrete structures, lies a visual treat for those that can’t get enough of Che Guevara, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, FARC, ELN, M-19, and revolutionary slogans.
Immediately upon entering from the Calle 45 gate, a black and red Colombian communist rebel flag of the ELN catches the eye. The graffiti becomes more prevalent near the university’s main plaza which is dominated by a large Che Guevara mural on one side and on the other of Camilo Torres Restrepo, the former ELN member and co-founder of the school’s Sociology program in 1960.
Numerous other aesthetically appealing graffiti murals adorn various other buildings with a more recent one commemorating the deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying “Nosotros con Chavez,” or “We are with Chavez.” A somewhat ominous slogan fills a concrete wall just away from the campus center, exclaiming “We can not be liberated without revolution! A communist world is necessary and possible!” Look for other paintings depicting workers struggles, indigenous rights, and women’s freedom, as well as a pair of elaborately carved statues near the art building and other abstract works in the park areas.
Besides the graffiti the campus offers a few large park areas to relax and observe the typical college student scene, or else grab a bite to eat near the campus center which is typically filled with students. There are many vendors that will sell empanadas, vegetarian sandwiches, and snack food.
The university also features 17 buildings that have been declared national monuments for depicting the last 60 or so years of Colombia’s modernist architecture. These structures look like they could have been placed among the concrete buildings in Soviet Russia but nonetheless they have some sort of ragged charm.
The university can be visited for free but upon entering it is usually required to show documentation and sign your name onto a visitor list. There are two main entrances but the one on Calle 45 at Carrera 30 is preferable. The other is at Calle 26 and Carrera 39. Allow about 2 hours to walk around. Taxi’s from the downtown area cost about 6,000-7,000 pesos ($3-4) and add on about a 1-2,000 ($.75-$1) if traveling from Candelaria.
- Universidad nacional de Colombia historia (Official page)
- Academic ranking of world universities, Colombia national university introduction (Shangairanking)
- University ubicacion (Official page)
- Localizacion del Campus (Official Page)