The morning of April 17, 1980 dawned cold, gray and damp in Bogotá. In other words, it was like most mornings there, with a low leaden sky and the dark cordillera of the Andes looming like a wall over the bleak altiplano and moorlands.
It was just like any other autumn morning in Colombia’s capital, except for two things: one was the depressingly familiar month-old hostage crisis at the Dominican Embassy; the other was the spaceship. And yet there it was, right in front of the convention center downtown, twenty-five metric tons of spiky polychromatic red and orange iron, ten meters long and angled at the heavens, surrounded by tall gray buildings, fussed over by pinstriped knots of bankers and government officials and apparently awaiting liftoff.
El Tiempo, the country’s newspaper of record, carried the back page headline: “Hoy inauguran nave espacial de Ramírez Villamizar” (“Ramírez Villamizar’s spaceship to be inaugurated today”). Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar’s Nave Espacial, conceived and designed in 1977 and installed three years later in the city’s Plazoleta del Centro de Convenciones, was only the latest—and most dramatic—in a series of monumental, geometrically abstract sculptures that had transfigured public spaces in Bogotá and beyond.