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Markets in Bogotá part 3: Samper Mendoza takes the night

Markets in Bogotá: Mártires
Laura Buitrago

Laura Buitrago

As an architect in Bogotá, I have gradually discovered the wonders of this territory, through its history, its art, and its people. I want to share these experiences as a way of living in the city.

The idea of nighttime conjures up a lot of stories and preconceptions that make us feel different about the city. In fact, here in Bogotá, there are certain places that we would never consider visiting at that time of the day. But you only have one life, and you have to live it fully. That is why in this article, we will tell you about an incredible plan as part of this challenge to visit all the markets in the city.  This is markets in Bogotá part 3!

Maps visited by locality © Map by Laura Buitrago

The market Samper Mendoza is special with regards to its schedule because it is the only market in Bogotá that opens at night. Additionally, it has another important characteristic: its location. Samper Mendoza is located within the locality of Mártires, a territory with a lot of history but also with certain problems that have kept it marginalized. However, the ARCUPA foundation has been responsible for giving it a new look through different activities such as tours. I took a tour and it is totally recommended, so keep reading in order to know more about this experience! 

What does ARCUPA do?

ARCUPA is a foundation that works with children and people from marginalized areas, such as Mártires, through community processes to recover the value of the neighborhood. One of the activities they have is tours during the day or night to get to know the architecture, history, social processes, and heritage of Mártires. The experience that I had was during the night and the idea was to walk through emblematic neighborhoods of Mártires and see them in a different way, opening up possibilities for discovering new things and being aware of the night dynamics. During the tour, we were accompanied by John Bernal (founder of ARCUPA) as well as Polo and Mono, two people that for various reasons live or have lived on the streets. 

I still remember the first thing that John told us before starting the tour: no matter what homeless people represent in our imaginations, after all, they are people, and with those eyes, we are going to see them today. This was the beginning of a unique experience in which we would have the possibility to interact with people who we normally do not see. 

Walking through Mártires locality 

When you plan the tour with ARCUPA, you have the possibility to decide the time and places you want to visit. In this case, we started in Hortúa station and then we walked to Eduardo Santos, a neighborhood that was built by its residents. The same thing is happening with the neighborhood La Pepita: both of them are characterized by small streets with houses that have different colors and numbers of floors. These conditions give rise to a picturesque urban landscape, reminiscent of the traditional neighborhoods of Bogotá. Those described above contrast with other areas that are destined for industrial development and storage, for example, Paloquemao, San Façon and San Victorino where you can find everything from spare parts to mattresses, clothes, and more. 

A landmark of the locality is the small square of Los Mártires that is near to the Bronx, a district that was a center of drugs and violence for years. However, it was the focus of a massive and controversial police operation in 2016 and now is hoping to transform into a hub of cultural and commercial development. In the same space, you can also find a historic monument, the Minor Basilica del Voto Nacional, which was built with the purpose of restoring peace during the conflict known as the “Guerra de Los 1000 días.”

Minor Basílica of Voto Nacional © Photograph by Laura Buitrago

The interesting thing about this tour is the possibility to immerse yourself in the dynamics of the area: firstly, by walking and learning more about the history of the different neighborhoods and secondly, by spending time with people like Polo and Mono who know the streets of this part of the city and will share their stories with you. 

To heal the body and spirit, some herbs from Samper Mendoza

Our last stop of the tour was the Samper Mendoza market, a place that is known for its variety of herbs, plants, and spices. There you can find multiple recommended products (mostly herbs, leaves, and other plants) “to heal your body and spirit”. For example, if you are going through a stage of bad luck in your life you can use “destrancadera”; if you want to reduce swelling in certain parts of your body you can use “caléndula”; or buy a plant called “guasca” in order to prepare a traditional dish called Ajiaco

Inside of market Samper Mendoza
Variety of herbs and plants © Photograph by Laura Buitrago

These are a few examples of the variety of herbs that you can find and the uses they serve in our country, not only for cooking but also for herbal medicine and more esoteric purposes. Another opportunity that Samper Mendoza offers is to try different dishes such as arepas or drinks such as “aromática” which is prepared with certain plants that come directly from the market. There is no doubt that your nose will enjoy this visit because it will experience different smells that are noticeable even from the outside as you approach the entrance. The other interesting thing is the schedule, which helps with the transportation of herbs that are best preserved at night. 

If you go on your own, keep in mind the opening times:

  • Monday 3:45 am until Tuesday 5:00 pm  
  • Wednesday 3:45 am until 5:00 pm
  • Thursday 3:45 am until Friday 5:00 pm 
  • Saturday and Sunday: 3:45 am until 5:00 pm

If you want to visit the market with ARCUPA, they give tours of Mártires every day, but you will only have the opportunity to visit the Samper Mendoza market with them on Mondays and Thursdays.

Give Mártires locality an opportunity 

This experience meant a new opportunity to explore the city in relation to the actors that are part of it since they have a personal perspective on the area that can be shared during these types of activities. Also, this tour allows people, as ARCUPA wants, to see the place through a different lens in order to help the community recover and give it the value that it deserves. Finally, my advice is to follow ARCUPA and contact them so you can arrange a tour and experience something unimaginable! 

Location of the market Samper Mendoza
Location of the market © Photograph by Laura Buitrago

I recommend you take UBER or a taxi in order to get to Samper Mendoza market. 

I hope you enjoyed markets in Bogotá part 3! And do not miss our series on markets in Bogotá that you can find on the COLTURE web page, as well as other articles. Remember to follow us on social media! 

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