Colombia is often depicted as an incomprehensibly frightening place. It is indeed a dangerous place to be a trade unionist, a journalist, or a person living in the path of an expanding oil palm plantation. At times over the last century, it has been an especially dangerous place to be a banana worker, a coffee farmer, or a member of either major political party.
Historians try to make sense of violence by analyzing its relationship to social, political, and economic change. What has been the relationship between violence and capitalist development in Colombia? Why has violence flourished within a relatively stable, ostensibly democratic two-party system? Trying to answer these questions produces a lot of disagreements, but it is one way to resist the fatalism that many people feel when facing a complex, extended case of war. It’s a way of recalling that violence is not primordial, it’s not entirely senseless, and it can come to an end.
As I prepare to leave for Bogotá, I’m thinking about the fact that I will be working with an organization that relates to Colombia’s violence in a distinctive way. Survivor Corps is working to bring together people who have been on different sides of Colombia’s armed conflict, and who are now disabled because of it. Using peer support, athletics, and a campaign for jobs, the organization hopes to achieve the goals of rehabilitation, social inclusion, and reconciliation. This is a challenging task at a time when the conflict is still going on. I’m only beginning to get a sense of the plans for the summer, and am waiting to learn more.
Posted By Caroline (Colombia)
Posted May 21st, 2008