Indians use a wonderful word when describing something that just had to happen. It’s “auspicious.” Indeed. You walk into a temple and the sadhu reaches for your palm. You are told, for a few rupees, that you’ll have an auspicious year. You cross a street in Delhi and avoid narrowly getting gored by a holy cow: It was an auspicious day. You get my drift. Everything in India is auspicious.
At The City Paper we’ve been honored to have had six auspicious years ever since the co-founders of this distinguished newspaper (Maria Claudia Peña and I) walked into a printing press late on the evening of April 9th 2008 to launch the only free English newspaper in Colombia.
It was auspicious, because April 9th was the day back in 1948 when much of the capital was razed to the ground during the so called Bogotazo uprising. We had no idea (until the following day) that we had printed with destiny. And nothing we were going to write would be incendiary! In fact, we have reached for quite the opposite. We have wanted to create a city-friendly, high-quality English newspaper, which circulates freely in the hands of all inhabitants of this capital. I think, so far, we have achieved our original objective.
Even though we thought we knew much about newspapers – Maria Claudia and I equipped with decades of journalistic experience – learned even more than we auspiciously could predict. So without much delay, I would like to mention a few anecdotes which have marked our first six years in print.
It was a very manual operation at first. Most restaurants welcomed our paper on their counter space. Some (those with bad karma) shoved it behind decorative flower vases. It became very clear to us early on, that the best restaurants in Bogotá were those with the most courteous doormen. It didn’t matter how many Michelin stars you had dangling over the menu, if the man at the door was a bully, the paper didn’t fit.
The great majority of Bogotanos have been respectful to The City Paper. From hotels to museums, galleries to bookstores, we have made our presence felt in this city of 8 million plus. We have reached out to Cartagena, Santa Marta, Medellín and even a small conclave of expats living high in foothills of the Sierra Nevada.We even stack newspapers in colonial towns such as Barichara and Villa de Leyva, so many of our readers will appreciate our Cover story this month on the life and times of the ultimate carranga composer, Jorge Velosa.
Once you turn on a printing machine there’s no turning back. Days and months become measured by deadlines and dreaded “going to press” days. Then there are the writers and photographers who put so much effort into what they do. Some with a better grasp of the country, than others: but all dedicated to covering Colombia in an insightful, intelligent way.
I have been told many times, that we are “too good to be free.” One digital guru from India (a very auspicious man) advised me early on to put a paywall on our content. I contested this. Twitter and Facebook have proven that they erode paywalls. And where is the fun in writing if only those with a credit card can read you?
Half the emails I have received to our Letters to the Editor section are written by men and women who haven’t understood a word I wrote. That’s quite an accomplishment! It has also been very clear from early on that we are read voraciously by Colombians who want an alternative to the massive “everything sponsored by” media.
And so we go on with every month, a new page written, on another not-so-new corner of Colombia covered. One of the great satisfactions of being in this business is being valued by other entrepreneurs.
In fact, many have chosen The City Paper over the years as the most effective and reliable way to reach an international audience in and outside Colombia. So, as we reach this auspicious moment in our print run, we have only Thank yous to all our advertisers, – large and small – especially some brilliant businesses and cultural entities who have stood alongside us over many years. Let’s begin with Andrés Jaramillo of D.C and Chía fame. Brew master Berny of the Bogotá Beer Company, Crepes & Waffles, BSR language school, Empresa de Licores de Cundinamarca, the Cultural section of the Banco de La República, Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, Tornamesa bookstore, and Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo. Once again Thank you and, may you all succeed in this most auspicious of years.