Between the 1960s and 1970s, the emergence of various guerrilla groups, determined to react against social exclusion and divergent political interests, triggered a wave of violence which, in the early 1980s, was aggravated by the appearance of paramilitary groups and other parallel phenomena, such as drug trafficking. Despite the traces of violence left by the armed conflict, in 2016, after more than fifty years of conflict, the Colombian government finally signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Aware of this reality, RIDHE, in collaboration with MEP Mónica Silvana González of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, has developed this initiative to reflect on the challenges and successes of the peace process in Colombia to so far.
In doing so, we are inspired by the World Poetry Movement and its demands for an end to the armed conflict in Colombia. The movement has envisaged a number of artistic initiatives to support dialogue with a view to definitive peace in the country. These include the work of some indigenous members of the Mitokwa Foundation, based in Valledupar, near the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This region of the country, in the far north of the Andes, is home to four indigenous peoples: the Arhuacos (or Ikas), the Wiwas, the Kogis and the Kankuamos.
However, as in other parts of Latin America, these peoples have been violated and dispossessed of their territories and natural resources. Similarly, their ancestral knowledge continues to be ignored due to the mistaken belief in the superiority of modern knowledge from the North. In the case of the indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, it is worth highlighting their persistent struggle to preserve their cultural identity, as well as their strong opposition to extractivist and hydroelectric projects that threaten their agricultural cultures and the balance of the climate.
After more than fifty years of armed conflict in Colombia, and in the context of the peace agreement, this event was an ideal opportunity to reveal the poems of artists belonging to the indigenous communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in Colombia. The poets were represented by two exceptional indigenous women who guided us from Colombia through their daily struggle to conserve their ancestral territories, as well as exposing the impact of the peace agreements on their demands for respect for the natural environment and their ancestral pedagogy.
The event took place at Mundo-b in Brussels on 30 March 2022. Among our guests, we were honoured to welcome MEPs Mónica Silvana Gonzalès, member of the delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly, and Ignacio Sánchez Amor, S&D coordinator for human rights and member of the DROI sub-committee, as well as Ramón Muñoz, president of the RIDH and moderator of the event.