She will wear you out, livin’ la vida
loca ocho, Come On!
Livin’ la vida
loca ocho, Come on!
She’s livin’ la vida
– Ricky Martin, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” (revised)
In April 2014, I moved to Barrio Alboraya in La Ocho, a neighborhood in the south of Barranquilla. I found my new home thanks to Airbnb and many hit-and-miss home visits that had me running all over La Arenosa. While it has the reputation of being peligroso y pobre (dangerous and poor), most of the people that live here would be insulted at this idea and invite you to visit and see for yourself. Outside the loud discotecas and corner tiendas, beyond the crazy divided lanes of traffic, life is actually good in La Ocho. ¿Quieres saber más?
The main street, Carrera 8 (La Ocho) is flanked by two main avenues, Calle 30 (Boyacá) and Calle 45 (Murillo Toro). The area known as La Ocho is composed of several small barrios including La Magdalena, El Campito, and La Alboraya. Clearly, Googlemaps doesn’t have a Googleclue about La Ocho, however it does have several of the neighborhoods listed.
Some say La Ocho also includes La Victoria and La Union, or basically the areas between Carrera 14 and Carrera 6, but this — like many things in Barranquilla – often depends on who you ask.
La Ocho doesn’t have the famous designers and three-story glamour of Buenavista, or the vast space and deep discounts of Unico, but it does have some options for shopping, including the event-hosting Panorama and, just a little further south, the indoor-outdoor Metro Centro. There are two Olimpica grocery stores on Carrera 36B and a Jumbo on Calle 30, but the best shopping in La Ocho is the little stores along the main street.
Perhaps not as picturesque as it sounds, the main street and its little stores provide the neighborhood with local options for just about anything, from pharmaceuticals and fresh fruits to casual clothes and hardware. Best of all, the prices in the local stores are generally reasonable to barato (low).
For your office needs, visit Caribean.net, where Jesús offers inexpensive impresiones and fotocopias más rapido (very fast prints and copies). Is your cat coughing up hairballs again? Make an appointment to see the good doctors at Veterinara la 8, where dogs often arrive for their check-ups via mototaxi.
Finally, for the best shopping in la Ocho, don’t miss El Rematazo near Calle 36B. This tienda de varidades sells everything from households to clothes to beauty supplies. The selection and stock in El Ramatazo puts Dollar Tree to shame, and rumor has it that the WorldTeach volunteers living in La 8 are regular customers of El Rematazo, no doubt for its decent papeleria and personal service.
Tell anyone in Barranquilla you live in La 8, and their first response is usually, “ah, La Rumba!” La Ocho is famous for it’s huge discotecas and corner tiendas, blasting music at all hours, serving copious amounts of Aguila, Club Colombia and Aguardiente day and night.
The giant clubs, including Pink Panther, King Kong and PKDOS rise above other venues like La Troja, Estadero Super Rico de la 8 and the appropriately named Beer Party.
You haven’t truly lived in Barranquilla until you’ve experienced Vallenato music at top volume until 4 a.m. on a Saturday night, especially when it’s right next to your house. Sleep comes with experience, and miraculously your brain eventually tunes the music out.
Las Buses y Los Autos
It’s true much of the traffic in La Ocho is mototaxis or people cutting through from Calle 30 to Calle 45, however it is also heavy with buses on regular routes, which is fantastic if you live without a car. Many of the top companies in Barranquilla serve La 8, including Sobusa with its giant old school buses that run from the top of the city to the bottom and back, the dark green and yellow former tour buses of Loyola, and Embusa with its vintage dark blue and orange buses.
There’s also the giant yellow buses of Transurbar (Maria Modelo), and the gold-and-black La Carolina buses, which conveniently end their route at the Terminal de Transporte. If you’re not sure which bus to take, visit the Transporte Público Barranquilla website and go crazy trying to figure out the best route for your destination, or just do as the locals do… ask someone on the street.
No neighborhood would be complete without a body shop (would it?), but the one in La Ocho is worlds apart from anything you’d find at Earl Scheib. In La Ocho near Calle 41 there is a drive up automotive “shop” without walls, meaning… it’s in the street. Literally. Six (sometimes seven, depending on how busy) days a week, several men cover glass with papers, hand sand, prime, and spray paint cars to a gleaming finish.
Though they’ve been spotting applying the occasional rattle-can spot job, most of the drive-up paint work uses a compressor, which sucks so much energy at times it has been known to blow the power out on the street nearby. Amazingly, the compressor stays operative, filling the air with paint fumes and dust as the rest of the street waits for the energy to be revived.
La Conclusion (La Vida)
So isn’t exactly the colorful tourist attraction of Carnaval, or the quiet and picturesque neighborhood of Ciudad Jardin, La Ocho is definitely a unique part of Barranquilla worthy of an afternoon visit for the adventure and experience. If your day in “La Rumba” happens to end with you dancing salsa all night at a giant club or celebrating a Juniors victory with the locals at a corner tienda, consider yourself lucky… after all, you’re living la vida ocho.