Thursday my wife and I traveled to the South of Bogota to the church 20 de Julio. It is a place with a long history of granting miracles to those who pray there to the Baby Jesus. Daily hundreds to thousands come to pray. On Sundays the church is packed so tight that one can barely walk between the people. Most often they say the prayers are answered when they are to help a child. The inside of the church is about the size of a football field. Its decoration features marble pillars with gold and white tops. Large crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling. There are 24 large stained-glass windows and many smaller ones above those. The back of the altar is a modernistic design made from gray and white marble slabs and features a larger than life size Jesus seemingly suspended away from the wall. His open arms make him appear like he is ascending into heaven.
Behind the front of the church, in another room, is a statue of the Baby Jesus encased in glass about 10 feet from the ground. Flowers and containers for offerings consume the area underneath. There are benches and kneelers farther back. Most people stand near the front, then kneel on the granite floor and pray.
Outside surrounding the large courtyard are businesses offering religious items of every kind. People with deformities are begging among hawkers selling rosaries, cards of prayers and toys for children. In another block there is a man with a truck stuffed with eight to ten goats selling literally “fresh from the goat” goat milk. Another man who put a six foot wide round platform on the back of his bicycle and four small wooden horses on that covered by a canopy sells rides to the children. The power for the very small merry-go-round comes by peddling the bike. Yet another person with three llamas took and sold pictures of kids sitting on the animal. Vendors selling sunglasses, religious items, jewelry, clothing and more hawked their wares in a nearby crowed 3-block area. They closed the street to traffic. My wife and I helped an elderly man who seemed very lost, disoriented and nervous. He was searching for the church to go there and pray to the Baby Jesus to help his sick wife.
The 20 de Julio Church and the surrounding area is every bit a part of Bogota as what the museums are. But few visitors ever venture there. Every time we go I keep thinking this is a place I am going to bring my son if he visits. With his view of the world and the way he writes about it, this area would surely be a treat. Also I would not be the only gringo-looking fellow in that part of the city.