Struggles Of A Colombian Community To Survive Industrialization After Decades Of Conflicts

Hector Vargas without any protection in the middle of the mountain, almost falls when he was trying to secure the cane that is on the mule. These workers have no insurance at the time when they are doing their work. If they get hurt everything comes out from their salary, as in the worst days do not exceed COP $10,000 per day. (2016)

 

Photojournalist and Documentary Photographer Carlos Bernate is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.  From his project ‘Home Sweet Gold‘.  To see Carlos’ stories and portraits click on any image.

 

Children from the Joaquín Alfonso Medina Institution gathered in a classroom. (2014)

 

Those who manage to fill their truck at El Cruce with the panela immediately go to the city of Bogotá to deliver all the merchandise in the market square of Corabastos that is the epicenter of the national farmers market. (2015)

 

Don Dario, one of the oldest inhabitants of the region. He has had to deal with the arrival of the guerrillas in the 80s, the arrival of the paramilitaries in 2003 and finally the incursion of the Colombian army that wa established in 2008. Currently the chaos that have generated the three actors of the Colombian conflict are disputing the territory, forcing many of its inhabitants to withdraw from the territory. (2015)

 

During the 80’s and 90’s, the guerillas conducted a raid on La Virgen de Quipile in Cundinamarca, Colombia in order to obtain a strategic position that would benefit its war tactics by providing power over populations close to the big cities and control over the intermunicipal routes that connect them. Their arrival began in Viotá, another municipality in Cundinamarca, where fronts 42 of the Eastern Bloc of the FARC EP, led by the “Negro Antonio”, took over the territory and carried out one of the largest forced conscriptions in the history of the war in Colombia.

 

German was one of the first young people to suffer for the arrival of the armed groups. Forced as every member of the community to have to collaborate with the side that arrived at the town, until one day a man known as “Guajiro”, who according to the community was a member of the guerrillas, murdered German with a machete, cut him to the point of almost cutting off his head, around 47 stabs. (2016)

 

Gonzalo has one of the least wanted jobs of those who work in the mills. He is the one in charge of the milling who is the one who takes the cut cane and puts it in the grinder in order to extract the juice from the cane. Some have lost fingers that have been be trapped inside the machine. (2016)

 

In the town of La Virgen the work of the land is still done in a traditional way, but as its inhabitants have left the village, the big companies are those who have bought the land that they obtained at very low prices. These more industrialized companies  brought all their machinery and their people from other cities, further diminishing the possibilities of employment in the community. (2014)

 

In the following years, during the height of his political campaign, ex-president Álvaro Uribe Vélez made promises to eradicate the guerrillas at all costs.  During his previous time as Governor of Antioquia, he defended the use of “Convivir”, which were private security cooperatives that landowners use to counteract the control of the guerrillas. These classes of paramilitary groups are currently under investigation for a staggering number of Human Rights violations. In 2003 in the Cundinamarca´s territory the Autodefensas Campesinas of the Casanare started to operate, led by “Martín Llanos” and his brother “Caballo”.  According to testimony of the community, this paramilitary organization had connections with the Batallón Colombia that was in La Mesa, which gave orders to the paramilitary group to use photographs to identify those who they deemed necessary to kidnap or murder.

 

Nowadays Don Adelmo, is one of the few peasants that manage to get some profit from the panela to survive.  The panela market is very small and with the unpredictable nature´s changes this labor loses every time to  the big landowners with more industrialized mills who monopolize the whole panela market in the area. (2016)

 

Don Ricardo, who is in charge of the panela molds, told me how almost a month ago he lost a finger in one of the mills where he also works.  (2016)

 

Since its foundation La Virgen de Quipile has sustained the land with cultivation of sugar cane and the production of panela in the “trapiches”. This project, as a metaphor reflecting this sociopolitical context, is based on the journey of a panela block, from the hard labor of its production and the harsh reality that has been lived by the people of La Virgen, to its subsequent commercialization in the big city, to an eventual place in the homes of Bogotá, where there is no conscience about the bitter suffering of the region that produced it, only 80 km away from Bogotá.

 

Eighteen karat gold on the teeth, a legacy of a culture that some people try to forget. (2016)

 

Inspección de La Virgen de Quipile, Cundinamarca, Colombia, 2014 – 2016

 

See also:

Perpetual Darkness

By Carlos Bernate

 


Back to HOME PAGE

%d bloggers like this: