Wednesday, 21 March 2012

I recently travelled to Medellín and Eastern Antioquia, places which offer different perspectives on Colombia’s violence and history. I meet people from the city and different parts of the country. Everybody has a story to tell about how their lives have been touched by war in the best of cases, and ravaged by it in the worst.

One story which leaves an impression is that of a young man who spent his childhood, with his French father, among the Kogui indigenous people in the Sierra Nevada. He was violently displaced by confrontations between the guerrilla and paramilitaries and his father and he were exiled to Paris, where, among other things, he was made to wear shoes for the first time in his life.

Everybody shares their stories of encounters with illegal armed actors.

A woman tells us of when she was a student at the National University of Colombia and dozens of armed FARC guerrillas walked into the cafeteria to address their ‘comrades’.

I hear about what life was like in Medellín in the 90s, about all the deaths, the bombs, the curfewed nights and the constant fear.

We discuss the myth of Colombia’s “post-conflict” status; the myth that the Colombian people’s sole enemy is the armed leftist insurgency; the fact that certain areas like Urabá are still devastated by death and destruction caused by confrontations between armed groups; that the violence in certain places like Medellín has escalated in recent years; the twists and turns of a conflict which manifests itself in manifold ways, including in the form of megaprojects and multinationals eager to exploit Colombia’s natural resources.

We accompany the Asociación Campesina de Antioquia to a village in Eastern Antioquia, travelling on the top of a chiva. The event takes place in protest of the many hydroelectric dams which are proposed for the rivers of the region, which would involve the displacement of thousands of campesinos.

It gives us an insight into an energetic activist community of organizations and people who stand up in defense of campesinos’ rights to life and land, and the spirit of the event is charged and dynamic. It feels good to soak up this atmosphere and to provide visibility and solidarity to such movements.