Torn apart by feverous ideology, the like of which is unheard of, or perhaps ashamed of and suppressed elsewhere, Colombia’s ability to strike fear into the hearts of the Western ruling elite yet conjure romantic imagery in the minds of the younger generations seeking adventure and passion is what draws me to this incredible country.
A country wrought with social and political inequality, viscous power dynamics and unspeakable acts of violence committed by all parties to the tired and drawn-out conflict. Yet a country whose population is fiercely patriotic and proud of their resilient nation teaming with the natural beauty of mountains covered with coffee plantations, the Caribbean coast boasting vast national parks and coral reefs, snowy Andean peeks and lush green jungles.
The modern and cosmopolitan cities host multicultural populations, descendants from the long traditions of colonialism and trade which make for bustling, exciting environments. It is impossible to ignore the passion that exudes from each Colombian as they show you their country, teach you their customs and spin you across dance floors.
The optimism and thirst for peace and stability demonstrates the strength of character of a nation that has experienced such atrocities, many of which have not been recognised let alone compensated for. Thousands of lost loved ones make up the list of the ‘disappeared’; no explanation, no reason, no justice.
The countless lives lost to a war with increasing lack of clarity and loss of memory of where the conflict began in the first place. But bitterness and anger are emotions which hardly raise their heads above the fervent positivity that pervades the country. Progressive organisations petition for change and innovative social movements are supported and nurtured. Despite the danger of speaking out, human rights defenders persist in constant attempt to revive their country from misery and restore peace.
A conflict that began a clash between polar ideologies – the Marxist inspired FARC versus the right wing government – has become confused and convoluted as the many actors splinter into factions and lose their conviction and original purpose. The State and army produce paramilitary groups with differing motives, whilst the guerrillas become enticed by the lucrative trade of narcotics, further confusing the already muddy agendas that the conflict was built on. Progress to align the various groups is slow as peace talks require a full deconstruction of the conflict’s routes, to ensure original inequalities are addressed along with an acknowledgement and public apology for the atrocities faced by the nation for over forty years.
A war spanning generations proves a difficult phenomenon to continue to justify, yet progress is underway and Colombians remain positive that the peace talks which began in 2008 will be successful.
Latin America is a tragically misunderstood continent that receives pitiful international coverage despite the many progressive and forward-thinking initiatives proposed and enacted by governments across the region. The myths of barren lands covered in guerrilla warriors brandishing machetes, seeking to end the lives of worthless souls must be dispelled and replaced with the cultural dynamism that characterises the continent.
With an increase in global awareness of the constant plight of Colombians, solidarity links between Colombia and other countries can be forged so that we can show our support for the peace talks and the efforts to restore stability and peace to the war torn country.