Co-lom-bi-a. Four syllables. If only the political and social situations there were just as simple. The country’s gone through some dark times. It’s all part of a half century web, and I’m just starting to see the threads: political tensions, drugs, paramilitaries, US foreign policy, corrupt government and army officials…the threads never seem to end, and the web extends for miles.
***Before I continue, I want to put a little disclaimer out there: this isn’t the fullest picture of Colombia. The country has made huge strides to become a much safer and stable place to be. Not to mention the warmth of its people, the incredible biodiversity and some of the awesome cultural traditions. But no place or people is perfect.***
I got my first glimpse of it almost a decade ago during one my family’s summer visits. At that time, there was a lot of news about skirmishes, kidnappings, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
“Is there a civil war going on?” I asked my oldest aunt when I was about 9 years old. I explained to her what I knew of the United States’ Civil War.
She paused for a moment.
“It’s nothing like that, dear,” she replied.
Well then, what was it?
In short: An internal conflict between guerrillas, paramilitary and government forces, with civilians often caught in the cross fire. So, yes. It is a civil war of sorts.
It would take a book to get through all the history, politics and cultural aspects of the 55-year-old armed conflict in Colombia.
But we can take a look at some numbers to understand the toll it’s taken on the Colombian people:
1. 1,982 massacres (from 1980-2012)
2. 220,000 deaths, almost 80 percent of those were civilian deaths
3. 5.7 million displaced persons
The problems are deeply-rooted. After watching a short documentary yesterday called “America’s Backyard: Colombia,” my interest in this topic has piqued.
It doesn’t seem unreasonable that my view of Colombia would be rosier than most because of how distant I’ve been from all of it.
It’s a broken country. There’s pain and grief that runs generations deep. At some point in the future, I hope to tell and compile the stories of those people, be it in a book, online platform or podcast. The more I read about this, the more I know I don’t know much of anything. But the more certain I am this is somewhere I want to be working, living and helping communities make the road to recovery.