Introduction to the Project

There is a Colombia left out, ignored. To meet her, most of the times you need to take some muddy tracks deformed by the hooves of the mules or embarked on a tiny little rowboat and then, travel several hours. This Colombia doesn’t know what are the effects of the growth. It’s still waiting for the next visit of a health brigade or the coming of a schoolteacher. But this Colombia isn’t only poverty and misery. It is also the liveliness, the ingenuity and the passion from those who learned to survive and to construct a world far from anywhere. You can meet it in the course of a vallenato refrain, on the rythms of a cumbia, or when you let yourself drive by the incredible stories of a local ranchera song. This is the other Colombia, out of the cities far away from the decision-making centres, living in the countryside at the pace of the harvest, the rainy period and the moon cycle. It built herself on some strengthening community ties, with reciprocity and solidarity’s strength, looking at the consumer society and its middle class with desire or disgust.

This Colombia experienced mistrust, harshness and violence too. Some people say it was born on April nine, 1948, when Jorge Eliécer Gaitán the popular liberal presidential candidate was murdered in Bogotá. The fights between conservatives and liberals give the first moments of the internal war and lead part of the liberal opposition to find a shelter in the countryside. Then the guerrilla emerged, like the FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Peoples Army). A first block took shape gradually: the South Bloc in the Caquetá region. Based on a Marxist-Leninist approach, the guerilla set up in the countryside all along its history. Today, the other Colombia is the main stage of the armed conflict, while in the big city the effects of the war on daily life are rarely felt.

The project presented here is constructed around three distinct parts. The first one will present the other Colombia I meet in the Caquetá department. The second one introduces the FARC-EP combatants during unilateral ceasefires declared by the guerrillas. And the third one would document the concrete construction of peace in the territory, from the beginning, with the first public meeting with the guerrilla, to the return to civil life.

It’s an ongoing project and the main purpose is, beyond the unique military feature, using a social and political focus on this six decade internal war and its possible aftermaths. The project intends to photograph the attempt to find peace in these areas, where war was born and imposed itself day after day on the territories, the bodies, and the spirits of the people living there.

 

The project received a Emergency Fund 2016 from the Magnum Foundation
and the Prince Claus Fund

 

The reportages contain more pictures, please contact me if you need to see more or, well, If you want to support!

Part I | The Other Colombia

The Caquetá department where the reportage takes place is an example of these territories marked by the war. Caquetá begins in the Andes mountains in the north and finishes with the Amazon jungle in the south. It’s also one of the borders of the agrarian colonization. The farmers came, cutting paths through the jungle with their machetes, some of them escaping from political persecution. Today, the younger generations have very little means with which to change or think about the future. It is difficult to go to school and most of the time, children start to work very young, at age 11-12, helping their family and then, searching a job in other farms. Military presence is a constant and, since it is considered a hotbed of guerrilla activity, the entire territory is stigmatized, while most of the soldiers are young and come from peasant families. A large portion of the region is under the control of the FARC-EP since several decades. They have a local political power that make them "law" as they say. This part of the global project will contextualize the Other Colombia.

This work is still in progress.

Part II | The FARC-EP Combatants

Between war and peace
 

Three years ago, the FARC-EP and the Colombian government started peace talks. Last July, the guerrilla declared a second unilateral ceasefire, while the negotiations have never been so far away. The country is close to a bilateral ceasefire and the peace agreement. It is possible to imagine that this army of around 8,000 people, and its civilian militias (estimated at three or four times more), will lay down their guns and participate in political and social spaces.

This part intents to seize the identity of these combatants. Most of them come from peasant families. They live nomadic lives for years. The series presents two Southern Bloc FARC-EP units: The first one, a unit from the south of Caquetá in May 2015 at the time of the first unilateral ceasefire; the second one from the Teófilo Forero column in the north Caquetá in October 2015 at the time of the second unilateral ceasefire. The series shows the daily lives of the guerilla. Most of them come from the same region and have other family members in the guerilla. Some of them joined the guerrilla while still very young, escaping from a dysfunctional family or a history of violence and repression. Female combatants represent between 30 and 40% of the FARC’s members. All of them abandoned their old identities and took up new names when they joined this new family. It is difficult for them to imagine or believe in a peaceful future. But all of them also tells they will continue with the movement, even without weapon, waiting the commander’s guidance. “I’m in the line, and here, I have to stay”, says one of them.

The reportage, still in progress, gives a particular focus to women’s situations. The extent and nature of women’s participation during conflicts is frequently underestimated, and therefore their own place in the implementation of a peaceful state

 

| Portfolio |

 •••• Work in progress . . . . . .

Caption: 01/25/2016. Meeting in a little village of Putumayo department, Amazonian jungle. At the right side, Joaquín Gómez, permanent member of the peace delegation and chief of the FARC southern block on the stage with his commandants facing hundreds of people coming from peasant and indigenous communities. During the meeting, he explained the distinct points of the peace talks and the four agreements reached (about an integral rural reform, the politic participation, the illegal crops and their substitution and the justice and reparation agreement). He also answered questions from the public about concerns for the post peace agreement.

Part III | Waiting for Peace

This part would present the way to the peace construction, before and after the possible agreement signing. How Colombia would return progressively to peace?

One of the chapter is about the peace pedagogical exercice practiced by the guerrilla. The 25th January 2016, a historic meeting took place in the Colombian jungle. Members from the FARC Peace delegation come to present the peace process and listen the concerns of an assembly of hundreds of people coming from peasant and indigenous communities. Since the beginning of the peace talks three years ago, this encounter is the first public meeting of the insurgent army with Colombian population and a new step towards the laying down of the weapons in favour of the civil political action.

Other chapters of this part would concern the different steps towards peace. What will happen if an agreement is reached, and how will the guerrilleros reinsertion be handled? In the aftermath of a 50 years internal conflict, a key issues will be the future of these fighters, and the place given to them in Colombian society. Other key issue is the implementation of the peace agreement, and the effects in the other Colombia.

 

| chapter: A Last Journey |

Colombia, December 08-12th, 2016. 55 guards of the FARC guerrilla high commander Carlos Antonio Lozada committed in a journey without going backwards. On a four-days trip, they moved from their old camps in the far-off lands to Icononzo, a transitional zone at four hour of the capital Bogotá. There, they will stay for 6 months according to the bilateral ceasefire agreement and begin to lay-down the weapons and return to the civil-life.

After 52 years of operations, the FARC army is accustomed to travel in every kind of rural ground. But with this journey, the last one for this group, the FARC fighters met an unknown or forgotten world, the world of the regular and urban Colombia. For some of them, several decades had passed since the last time they crossed a big city. For others, the trip was a first initiation to the newest technology like the cellular or WiFi use. Some boarded in a modern bus for the first time of their life. During the 700 kilometers of road, they passed most of the time looking new landscapes. The trip was also a moment of reunion, meeting and reconciliation. Reunion with their families, meeting with the civilians and reconciliation with the police and military officers.