Lauder Student on Spanish Immersion in Colombia

Posted by Randal Drew, WG’17, G’17, an MBA-MA candidate at the Wharton School and the Lauder Institute. He is a member of Lauder’s Spanish Language and Culture Program.

Gaitan Memorial in ColombiaLike every history-loving traveler, I’d like to go back in time to experience the past in person. I’ve often imagined, like Owen Wilson’s character in Midnight in Paris, the experience of rounding a street corner, passing through an alleyway, and finding myself in a long-gone time and place. I think that this is the only, limited way that we can experience the past – in local, specific, hidden places that history has forgotten.

Such a place is the Café-Bar San Moritz, founded in 1934 in the urban heart of Bogotá, Colombia. These days you wouldn’t find the café on your own. It does not appear among the more than 1,100 Bogotá bars and restaurants on TripAdvisor. Its entrance is an unadorned concrete passageway on the narrow Calle 16. Only a simple sign, hidden well within the entryway, advertises its presence to the world. It takes you by surprise.

We descended into the Café last Thursday at twilight, following our guide Camilo Andrés Monje of the University of the Andes. Camilo warmly greets the staff, who recognize him instantly. As Bogotá’s resident expert on the history of cafes, he knows the importance of this place better than anyone. We gathered in a back room to have a drink. Old, unfamiliar music plays through the speakers. Crates of Poker, Aguila, and Club Colombia beer pile high in the corners. Locals gather and converse quietly at the tables around us, with collections of empty bottles implying that they had been there for hours. A single light illuminates the space, and a picture of Libertad Lamarque smiles down on me while I take in the scene. For a brief moment, I’m going back.

Originally posted on the Lauder blog. 

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