Let's talk Latin America

Peace, Reconciliation and Research in Colombia

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As part of ACILA’s* two-day programme of talks, debates and films on culture and inequality in Latin America, BristoLatino attended a round-table discussion about peace, reconciliation and research in Colombia.


A mix of researchers, students, professors and members of the public came to listen and share project ideas.  They discussed the Colombian peace process through a range of different lenses,  sensitive to the specificities of Colombia: its geography, its conflict, its previous peace negotiations, its history, its ecology, its people, its economy.


Shidhjmatnj Pardo Bohórquez represented La Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres, the Colombian pacifist, feminist organisation which works to ethically and culturally reconstruct each town and region by listening to people’s experiences and giving them agency. Revictimisation is often a consequence of failing to see that  peace is not just the result of political negotiations, but takes detailed and dedicated work. Talking about ‘peace’ can distract us from the actual conflict, many of the speakers emphasised.


The speakers reiterated the importance of gender in post-conflict. The Colombian peace agreement is unprecedented for the centrality of its gender focus. Women’s organisations like Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres have lobbied for decades to ensure gender remains a key tenet of the peace agreement. If peace is to be worked towards, then gender-based aggression, violence and discrimination must be challenged- by revisiting the past and pathing a better future from it..


In an era where post-truth has undermined honest work, the fear is a Trump-esque post-shame: ‘I don’t care, do u?’ read Melania Trump’s jacket as she arrived in Mexico on World Immigration Day. If perpetrators of serious crimes aren’t held accountable, then how can people move forward?


Another crucial consideration in post-conflict is farming, one of Colombia’s main businesses and a form of livelihood for many. María Paula Escobar-Tello stressed that the solutions and reparations must be Colombo-centric, and international programmes must avoid telling Colombians how things must be done. This is not just a question of Western arrogance, but also of the importance of landscapes in political processes.


Naomi Millner highlighted the term ‘political ecology’, which explains the intricacies and many challenges of rebuilding such an ecologically diverse country as Colombia. Different political ecologies govern each area. For this reason, Naomi, who is a Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Bristol, is an advocate for and involved in transdisciplinary research in the environmental humanities, bringing together disciplines which may not often cross over in their compartmentalised university faculties, but which clearly interlink intricately and inseparably in daily life, as the Colombian conflict proves. There is no post-conflict without fixing land and resource exploitation.


Other projects looked at digital and artistic forms of reparation and how different media can adapt to a changing (and not necessarily ending) conflict. Unfixed media can offer more scope to ask oneself what reparation means in Colombia and to express oneself and better represent others as part of a long-term healing process.


Thank you to María Paula Escobar Tello, Naomi Millner, Julia Paulson, María-Teresa Pinto Ocampo, Claire Taylor, Shidhjmatnj Pardo Bohórquez and Matthew Brown.


*ACILA is the name of the University of Bristol group, Addressing Culture and Inequality in Latin America.