Building “Citizenship Culture” in Bogotá

Antanas Mockus
April 18, 2012

When the citizens of Bogotá, Colombia elected Antanas Mockus as mayor in 1995 at the height of violence and bedlam, they expected change, but not the kind Mockus provided. The newly elected leader dressed up in a Superman outfit in an effort to lift morale, dispatched mimes to shame drivers who disrespected pedestrians and showered on television to encourage people to conserve water by turning off the tap while lathering up. Mockus, the former president of the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, adapted decades of teaching experience into his unusual governance style and aimed to tackle corruption, violence and social disorder by changing people’s mindsets. The city made dramatic improvements during his two terms in office. By 2003, water usage had decreased by 40 percent, the homicide rate fell from eighty-eight to twenty-two per one hundred thousand inhabitants and traffic fatalities dropped from 1,300 to about six hundred per year. In the following essay, Mockus explains the source of his inspiration for transforming Bogotá.