Luz Mary Giraldo, especialista en literatura colombiana
Llegué a Bogotá con la intención de entrevistar a varias personalidades del campo literario colombiano sobre literatura reciente –últimas dos décadas–, y más específicamente sobre “imaginarios del futuro” en la narrativa colombiana contemporánea.
Quizás lo que motivó esta pregunta, en un principio, fue un agotamiento personal con el estado de cosas actual en el ámbito social, político, cultural en Colombia. Más aún, la sensación de que “no hay futuro”, que no hay un porvenir esperanzador, donde todos los ciudadanos sin importar el origen social, económico, étnico o cultural podamos vivir en paz, gozar del trabajo que queremos y sabemos hacer; acceder por igual a la educación, salud, pensión, ocio, justicia, seguridad; desarrollar libremente nuestra personalidad, género, sexualidad. Derechos que en Colombia se ven particularmente amenazados por la ausencia histórica del Estado en vastas regiones del país; un modelo económico que ha privilegiado tradicionalmente a las élites y, por lo tanto, que ha creado enormes desigualdades; una cultura política basada en la intolerancia y el acallamiento violento de las diferencias; la propagación del narcotráfico y su maquinaria de guerra; el conflicto armado entre ejército, guerrillas y paramilitares, entre otros factores.
En un panorama así, que incluso se podría concebirse como de crisis permanente, la pregunta por un futuro y un futuro alternativo al estado de cosas actual e histórico se hace fundamental. ¿Ha imaginado la literatura –el campo de la imaginación por excelencia– los futuros del país? Continue reading
Entre las decenas de salas teatrales que alberga el barrio de La Candelaria, en el centro histórico de la ciudad de Bogotá, una de las que condensa más de cuatro décadas de historia es la casona del Teatro La Candelaria. Este grupo fue fundado en 1966 por un grupo de artistas e intelectuales que buscaban nuevas líneas de experimentación teatral y de práctica política. De más está decir el lujo que representa haber tenido la oportunidad de visitar este espacio, y de entrevistar a actrices y actores que hoy en día no solo son admirables por su maestría como artistas, sino que encarnan en sí mismos una tradición teatral. Patricia Ariza, Nohora Ayala, César “Coco” Badillo y Francisco “Pachito” Martínez tuvieron la generosidad de conversar conmigo sobre la historia del Teatro La Candelaria, su propuesta estética y su compromiso político.
La casona del Teatro La Candelaria
Patricia Ariza recuerda la conciencia que siempre tuvo el grupo del carácter fundacional del trabajo que estaban haciendo: el Maestro Santiago García, fundador y director del Teatro La Candelaria, columna y guía de sus proyectos, tomó el riesgo de retirarse de la Universidad Nacional y empezar una empresa quijotesca que no se ha detenido hasta el día de hoy. Desde sus inicios, La Candelaria ha promovido un diálogo entre artistas, sindicatos de trabajadores, ciudadanos en situación de desplazamiento y el movimiento estudiantil. De estas conversaciones surgió un nuevo público teatral, que exigía obras propias, que hablaran de lo que pasaba en Colombia. Patricia Ariza explica el paso de una dramaturgia de autor a procesos de creación colectiva, en los que la puesta en escena nace de la colaboración entre todos los miembros del grupo; frente a un darse cuenta de que “nosotros somos dramaturgos también”, el camino hacia una nueva forma de hacer teatro se empieza a definir. Desde entonces, La Candelaria emprende sistemáticamente la creación de obras originales de dramaturgia nacional con el método de creación colectiva.
“Study and Disobey,” graffiti from the Plaza de Bolivar
I wasn’t in Bogotá for last year’s spate of student strikes and protests, nor have I seen its student movement in action. Its wake, however, is everywhere.
The graffiti doesn’t last long in the ritzier areas of the city. It’s wiped off advertisements rather quickly; the pretty woman declaring her desire to “estudiar” from the wall of the bus stop by my hostel was, by morning, yearning once more for the “solidez” of the cell phone network Claro. It lasts longer on university walls, but the artistic vandalism is at its most rambunctious and its most visceral in the Centro, where colonial architecture becomes a platform for modern conflicts and paintball protests have turned government buildings into Jackson Pollock paintings.
Sometimes it’s hard to discern who’s responsible for what when conducting graffiti archaeology; Bogotá is a city with protests in its mortars and a lot to be discontent about. Continue reading
There are many recurring themes in my experiences of Colombia: the fruits that continue to fascinate me; the awful rains from which many parts of the country are still recovering; and a few other topics that have raised interesting questions about Colombia’s development in the unique context of the armed conflict, but also within a broader regional framework.
One of the themes that I find particularly controversial and therefore difficult to tackle is that of the megaproyecto, or ‘megaproject’. The term, which I only heard a few weeks ago, refers to any sort of large infrastructure or other development project. The idea that this sort of project (a new bridge, a mine, a carbon plant etc.) causes damage to the environment and presents issues of workers’ rights, land rights and others is not new. What strikes me about the megaprojects in Colombia is that there is a particularly broad spectrum of opinion regarding the megaproject and its possible effects, and that breadth of thought has motivated me to consider the issue in more depth.
Colombia, despite being ahead of many other countries in Latin America in terms of economic development and standard of living, has massive infrastructure problems and still demonstrates a huge proportion of the population living in poverty. The country boasts an incredible amount of natural resources, especially in the fuel sector. Since the reduction of the armed conflict, international corporations are increasingly interested in Colombia as a site for resource exploitation, and infrastructure development agencies are more willing to invest. This could be great for the Colombian economy if it brings in foreign funding in addition to improving infrastructure. The problem is that the money comes in at the top of the pyramid – at the level of government and large corporations – and the potential effects of that increased income (job creation, social programs etc.) don’t trickle down to the bottom where people need it most. The other problem is that the projects themselves create massive interruptions and sometimes dangerous living situations in the areas where they take place. An example is the current development of carbon extraction sites in the area of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a region rich in biodiversity as well as traditional indigenous ways of life, both of which are being negatively affected by the chemicals, fumes, noise pollution and other disruption caused by the mine. Indigenous territory is being encroached upon while local people employed by the mines complain of dangerous conditions and underpay.
Two issues at play here are: mismanagement of funds to the detriment of the poor who could benefit if the money was spent correctly; and inadequate implementation of new projects that affect this population.This is the group at the base of the pyramid. Hopefully the fact that I noticed this issue is an indication that it’s visible at the national level and that these issues will be resolved. That said, I think there’s a long way to go before the right changes are made so that ‘megaprojects’ can benefit all sectors of the population.
Posted by Cristal Downing — MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU
I’ve now been in Colombia for a few weeks and somewhat predictably, I love it more each day. I spent last week on the Caribbean coast, which struck me (as it has before) as being remarkably different from Bogotá, and therefore reminded me of one of the things I love most about Colombia – its diversity. It is amazing that one country can have such a wide range of landscapes, climates, cultures and people.
As part of my research, I am investigating the creation of one of ten indigenous communities in the lower part of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a mountain range near the city. The indigenous people have been badly affected by the armed conflict in the region and are now in the process of reclaiming their ancestral lands in a sustainable way. I started this research with a very skeptical view of the government and NGO involvement in the projects, but the more I look into the development of indigenous land rights and governmental structures that support indigenous life in Colombia, the more impressed I become. It seems that in comparison to many other countries in Latin America, especially those where the indigenous population is a minority, Colombia has made more tangible efforts to preserve indigenous identity as part of national diversity, while also politically engaging indigenous groups at the local and national level.
That said, it seems that the community I’m studying may have some issues in its function as a development project. Monitoring and evaluation is almost non-existent and it seems that though collaboration was strong and effective in the process of creating the new village, it has weakened considerably since the inauguration of the community in July 2010. While I do think that the people should live in the village without constant interference from the outside, the lack of communication between the indigenous-lead NGO, another local NGO and the interested governmental entities could be problematic if accompanied by a lack of accountability for unforeseen issues.
While the impressive representation of indigenous interests in local and national government seems to me to be quite unique to Colombia, these last observations regarding a lack of accountability are common in development projects all over the world. Hopefully in the coming weeks as I spend more time investigating this project, I’ll learn more about how this type of issue can be resolved in order to complement the strides Colombia has already taken in indigenous and development-related work.
Posted by Cristal Downing – MA Candidate at CLACS
I have frequently been amazed by how quickly things can happen in Latin America if you talk to enough people, and I seem to have been talking a lot since I arrived in Colombia last week. I’m lucky to have a few friends here in Bogotá, and upon my arrival they began asking questions about what exactly my thesis research involves and what contacts I’ve already made. A few days later, emails started trickling in with helpful suggestions and useful contacts. Of course one might say that it would have been great to have these contacts before, but I’m certainly not going to turn them down.
So far, research has consisted of spending a lot of time in the public library in Bogotá, where I’ve been reading up on indigenous NGOs, land rights and involvement in sustainable development projects. I wasn’t expecting to find so much material in Bogotá, and it’s been great to realise that indigenous-lead NGOs have been very involved in positive political change at the national level. It’s also given me a lot to think about in terms of how I want to direct my research and to what use I can put the meetings I have organised in the coming weeks.
This weekend I head to the Caribbean coast where I will meet with representatives of the NGOs who headed the development project I’m studying, as well as leaders from the community at the center of the project. I’m excited at the prospect of adding some current perspectives to the background research I’ve completed in Bogotá, and about getting to know the people involved in the project I’ve spent so much time looking at from afar. I’m sure the change from chilly Bogotá weather to the warmth of the Caribbean won’t hurt either.. And of course, I will keep talking!
Posted by Cristal Downing – MA Candidate at CLACS
Ex-president of Colombia and visiting scholar at Georgetown University, Álvaro Uribe Vélez. (Image: Center for American Progress @ Flickr.)
In the U.S., journalism is rapidly evolving to meet the demands of a technological age, and CLACS journalism students are at the forefront of innovating the field. In November 2009, CLACS students Andrew O’Reilly, Roque Planas, Mari Hayman, and Rachel Brooks-Ames launched an innovative online news source to produce original news pieces about Latin American and Hispanic immigrants in the U.S.
A year later, the Latin American News Dispatch (L.A.N.D.) is a sophisticated online news site with daily, breaking news on Latin America, and features reporting by foreign correspondents, U.S. based journalists and NYU journalism students and alums.
This week, L.A.N.D. achieved a major milestone. Roque Planas, co-founder and Managing Director of L.A.N.D., broke international news with an investigative news piece regarding Colombian ex-president Alvaro Uribe.
“On our first year anniversary, the Latin America News Dispatch broke an international story. That’s pretty awesome,” Planas said.
So I’ve been on the road for 11 days now, covering the Vuelta a Colombia for CyclingNews.com and I’ve seen a lot of Colombia. I’ve gone from the highs to the lows literally (3200 meters above sea level to 180 meters above sea level) and figuratively (along the route I’ve seen scenes of abject poverty and gross wealth within walking distance of each other). It has been hectic, frustrating, exciting, fun and an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I think the most interesting thing about this race is the amount of nationalism it brings out in the Colombian. From radio announcers proclaiming how great Colombian cycling is to schoolchildren waving the tri-color flag as the peloton passes by, this race seems to inspire something in the everyday Colombian. The “national race of Colombia” this year has been set amid the backdrop of the inauguration of Juan Manuel Santos and he seems to be a ubiquitous presence in the race.
Obviously he has not made an appearance at the race, but his face adorns old campaign posters along the route, his meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez eclipsed anything else that was happening elsewhere in the country and the watchful eye of soldiers lining the roadsides is a constant reminder that the country’s former defense minister is looking on.
I think the soldiers on the roadside perfectly sums up what bike racing in Colombia is all about. While it has never been canceled or postponed in all of its 60 years, it still needs men wielding assault rifles to guard the racers. This seems more for show than anything else, but it is something that one never sees in any of the European races. The military is a constant presence in Colombian life (the army even has a team in the Vuelta) and is something that people just seem to deal with whether they like it or not. I guess this in one of Colombia’s little intricacies.
Andrew O’Reilly is an MA Candidate at CLACS / Journalism at NYU
My research period in Colombia is soon coming to an end, and I still want to do so many things here. I have finished searching the catalog at the library, and I found several texts that might be helpful for my project. That part of my work has gone as planned and has been relatively uneventful. My work with organizations has proved more exciting, but also more difficult and some times frustrating. In my last entry I commented about two CNRR projects with testimonies from victims of the conflict that I found out about: One was a collection of letters addressed by the victims to their missing loved ones. I have had access to some of them and I think they are very interesting for the kind of analysis that I want to do. It has been hard to read those texts, because they are so full of pain and unresolved grief. There is a mother who tells her murdered son that she keeps the bullets that took his life. There is a woman that calls her love, who has being missing for several years, and tells him that she still dreams with him every night but he never speaks to her, and it is probably a sign of his death.
In those letters two figures of the other become one and the same: the missing other, the lost loved one, and the other to whom the narrative is addressed, the witness through whom the narrator tries to reconstitute his or her subjectivity. The second CNRR project is an archive called “Historias de vida”, “Life stories”. It gathers around 1600 testimonies from victims of the war. I have been told that some of them are still living in the region and their lives are under threat. That is why it has been so difficult to get clearance to work with those texts. The CNRR in Barranquilla told me that I would be granted access to them if I received authorization from the head of the commission in Bogotá. Supposedly, I have already been authorized but I’m still waiting for an authorization in writing, necessary to actually access the archive. Dealing with bureaucracy has been the most frustrating part of my work, but I’m very excited every time I attain a breakthrough. I hope to be able to arrange a trip to the archive on time, because I’m sure that I could find important texts for my project.
Carlos Rojas is a PhD Candidate in Spanish and Portuguese at NYU