Tag Archives: Colombia

“Let’s Go Back in Time, Ladies and Gentlemen!”

Posted by Angela Arias Zapata – PhD student.  Media, Culture, and Communication. NYU


Douglas DC-3

It was a rainy Friday morning in San José del Guaviare when I boarded the old Douglas DC-3 that would take me to La Chorrera, in the Colombian Amazon region. The DC-3 is an American made cargo airplane, famous for its role during the Second World War. A member of the aircrew inaugurated our flight with the words “let’s go back in time, ladies and gentlemen!”, in a gesture of complicity with nervous passengers like me. He was clearly referring to the old aircraft we were in, but, looking at them in retrospective, his words also spoke about the nature of my fieldwork in La Chorrera.

As a first year doctoral student at the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU, my research interests include state violence, official discourses and counter-discourses of memory in the context of endemic violence and war, as well as community based practices of memorialization and resilience. This Summer, I will be doing fieldwork in Colombia, with the intention of exploring the tensions between local and national discourses and projects of memorialization. Reflecting on collective memory goes beyond the historical reconstruction of violent events. It is, indeed, revisiting the past, but it is also understanding how that past is defined by its social functions in the present. In that sense, the old airplane was taking me in a journey to the past but also to a quest to understand the meaning of said past for the present inhabitants of La Chorrera.

I’m interested in the site known as Casa Arana, the center of the rubber boom expansion that took place between the 1900s and the 1930s in the Amazon. As a place where a genocide was coordinated and carried out —approximately 40,000 Uitoto, Bora and Andoque natives were enslaved and murdered there—, this construction has a particular history and, after the genocide ended, it has played many unexpected social roles. After the rubber boom, the place was used as an orphanage run by Capuchin monks, as the regional headquarters for the National Bank for Agrarian Development [Caja Agraria], and as a High School by the Salesian monks. Today is a public school run by the indigenous local population, known as House of Knowledge [Casa del Conocimiento]. Continue reading

Hacia la Paz: Celebrating Ceasefire in Bogotá

Posted by Hanna Wallis – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU

A crowd of several dozen huddles against the rain under huge Colombian flags with white flowers in hand, paz written on damp faces. They gaze expectantly toward the huge screen at the front of the plaza broadcasting live news from Havana; the four years of peace negotiations between the government and the country’s largest guerrilla group FARC approach a conclusive ceasefire agreement, a symbolic move to end five decades of armed conflict. We are standing in the exact coordinates of Bogota where 68 years ago, liberal presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was assassinated, catalyzing what is known in Colombian history as “La Violencia.” Today, the site where the conflict began is also where we inaugurate its conclusion. Hope radiates among people holding long embraces, statue-sized political handshakes projecting before us.


I arrived to Colombia just a day before this historical moment. While the government and FARC have flirted with the possibility of final signed peace accord for several months (the original deadline was March 23), this latest agreement was not pre-announced. My first full day in Bogota I hear mutterings about celebrating a peace agreement the next morning. All of my adopted Colombian family adorns themselves in peace regalia and we proceed to the Séptima con Avenida Jimenez.

Although more steps remain before the country reaches a final peace accord, this latest message from Havana marks several important changes: the FARC have agreed to disarm in a binding ceasefire wherein their weapons will be transferred to the United Nations. The government has also to create a special unit in its general attorney office to fight paramilitary and other criminal organizations.


The potential implications of these changes for the population at large has inspired broad speculation and concern. I’m here to research how the peace process will impact an indigenous resistance movement in Cauca, Colombia, which has fought for political representation and autonomy since the 1970s.  While quelling the tensions between the different armed groups is critical in the transition toward “post-conflict”, their movement represents the existence of plural interests excluded from the bilateral negotiations. I am excited to depart from the urban hullabaloo and immerse where I can hear a counter-point to the elation of the crowd in front of me.


My academic research will loosely center around their alternative forms of development and pursuit of sovereignty. As a joint masters student in Journalism and Latin American Studies, I will also seek out a character-driven reportage. I’ve been networking with organizations and government representatives to broaden my contextual understanding. With this backdrop, the voices from Nasa community members in Cauca will ring distinctly.

A Fresh Look at the Colombian Conflict

On October 9th, we were pleased to host The Colombian Conflict: A Symposium on History, Geography and Politics. The event organized by CLACS faculty member Edgardo Perez Morales, offered a cross-disciplinary and fresh conversation on Colombia and its internal conflict. Participants in this symposium presented specific research insights into the the process of early state-formation, the emergence of the “nature state” and territorial conflict affecting Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and the links between the overheating economy and the current peace process. The symposium was attended by 75 people, and was co-sponsored with the Urban Democracy Lab at NYU.

The speakers featured included academics from Colombia and based in the U.S. Given the complexity of such a long standing conflict in the South American country, the speakers represented various areas of focus such as migration, environmentalism, and state-formation. Its participants were:

Claudia Leal León received her PhD in geography at the University of Berkeley, and teaches at the History and Geography programs at Universidad de los Andes, in Bogotá. Her research concentrates on theIMG_1148 intersections of geography, politics and ethnicity, specializing on Afro-Colombian populations of the Pacific lowlands over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Dr. Leal León is the co-author of Unos bosques sembrados de aserríos (2003), the first work to assess the historical and social impact of logging in the Chocó region. She has published extensively in British, Canadian, American and Colombian professional journals, and is the editor of dossiers in environmental history and race. She is currently at work on a book on the emergence of the “nature state” in Colombia.

Daniel Gutiérrez Ardila received his doctoral degree from the University of Paris-Sorbonne, and teaches for the center for historical studies at Universidad Externado de Colombia. His research concentrates on the political and diplomatic history of early independent Colombia, specializing in the issues of sovereignty and legitimacy faced by the early IMG_1112pro-independence polities and Bolívar’s Republic of Colombia. Dr. Gutiérrez Ardila has published several books, including Un Nuevo Reino (2010), acclaimed as a tour de force in the history of early national Colombia. He has published articles in France, Mexico and Colombia, and is now working on a new book on the State of Antioquia during the early independence period.

Nazih Richani received his PhD in Political Science from George Washington University, and teaches political science and Latin American studies at Kean University. His research concentrates on political violence IMG_1134and organized crime, specializing in comparative approaches to ongoing conflicts in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. He has published Dilemmas of Democracy and Political Parties in Sectarian Societies: Lebanon  1949-1996 (1998), and the acclaimed Systems of Violence: The Political Economy of War and Peace in Colombia (2002), which has seen three editions, including one in Spanish. He is currently at work on a book on The Political Economy of Organized Crime in Latin America.

Mary Roldan is Dorothy Epstein Professor in Latin American History, and chair of the History Department at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her research interests are 19th and 20th century Latin American History; Colombia, social and political history, violence, state IMG_1137formation, and regional politics. Her publications include: Poltiical Cultures in the Andes, 1750-1950 (Duke University Press); Violent Democracies in Latin America (Duke University Press), among others.

Here is the full discussion:



Farewell 2014-2015 CLACS Cohort

Yesterday the CLACS 2014-2015 cohort presented their final projects of the Masters’ program. With the guidance and support of the Faculty, the students presented on a vast array of disciplines, from anthropology and journalism to literature and museology, providing an innovative look at topics related to Latin American and Caribbean Studies with impressive depth. Their research covered topics such as Quechua linguistics, gentrification in Ecuador, hipster culture in Cuba, the Palestinian migrant experience in Honduras, Afro-Mexican identity, diasporic Guatemalan literature, Chinese commerce in indigenous territories in Central America, among others. For the complete list of research projects, click here.

We are very proud of their accomplishments, and wish them all the best on what we are sure will be a successful future!

Deviating from Cartagena’s Traditional Tourism


La Boquilla’s new Fishermen Museum

Posted by Maria K. Navas – MA Candidate at CLACS / Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU

It’s six o’clock in the morning in Boca Grande, Cartagena, and I awake to a text from a friend, “Kariii, es que se me olvidó decirte anoche que mi suegra va a ser ahora en la mañana un etno tour en Boquilla por si quieres ir. Te recojo en quince minutos?” My friend, whose mother-in-law is one of the top tour guides of Cartagena—recommended to visiting dignitaries—is on a mission to visit La Boquilla, an Afro-descendant community in the outskirts of the city. Despite being a Cartagenera, La Boquilla is a community she has never visited, and never thought she would have needed to. The purpose of her first time visit is to discern whether or not a tour there would be of interest to her future clients. Sonia, who usually conducts her tours solely in the obvious historical sites of Cartagena, has of late, been requested to add “ethnic tours” to her repertoire.

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What You Grow Is What You Are

Post by Camila Osorio- MA Candidate at CLACS/Global Journalism at NYU


For the past month and a half I have been conducting research in Colombia on land displacement. Colombia is considered the country with the highest number of internal refugees after Syria: around six million people. Many of these are peasants, indigenous or afrocolombians in rural communities who now live in poverty in the outskirts of small or big cities around the country. And many are claiming their land back after the Colombian Government approved a law to restitute land to all of those who were forcibly displaced since 1991. The Government also agreed to an agrarian reform in La Habana if a peace treaty is signed with the FARC guerrillas.

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Meeting “The Queen”: Sex Work and Women

When I met MJ, a sex worker, we spent almost eight hours talking. She has a delicious sense of humor; she has a joke for everything- “perhaps to make life more livable” –she says.  We were sitting at a grocery store in the north of Bogotá, in the middle of a huge street, where cars often get crowded in order to reach the following avenue.  This is, however, one of the wealthiest zones in the city.

MJ told me that she would take me to many places where prostitution takes place. As she described some of them, she started to talk about her experiences in each of them. In one of them she had a fixed schedule: from 9am to 5pm.  She arrived there through a newspaper advertisement. Drugs, alcohol and smoking cigarettes are not allowed there. It is a traditional family home. Nobody, except its clients, would ever suspect that prostitution is allowed there. When sex workers enter the house, they must turn their cell phones off: the client is the only one that matters.

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