Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm Back in Colombia

After four days of travel (included being sent back to San Francisco for two days!), I made it to Colombia on the 22nd, greeted by mariachis-for-hire at the Bogota airport. (Ok, so the mariachis weren't for me, but it was an amusing welcome admist the chaos that is the Bogota airport at 10pm on a major holiday travel day.)

I have returned to work with FOR, the organization I worked with the last time I was in Colombia. I will be here for at least a few months to help out with a gap in staff and to train new staff. I'm excited for the opportunity to dive back into this meaningful work, to see friends, to conduct interviews for some articles I'd like to write, and to gain a new perspective on the place and the work after 10 or so months of being in the U.S. And to write more blog posts!

This marks my third holiday season in a row spent in Colombia. My first I spent in the Peace Community, eating bunuelos and dancing vallenato with campesinos in rubber boots. Last year, a visiting college friend and I traveled to where the desert meets this Caribbean ocean, La Guajira, and were treated to the traditional Christmas meal of goat cooked in goat fat (I tried it...).

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Hidden Side of Violence in Ciudad Juárez: Student Shot by Federal Police

This article was published today on The Women's International Perspective, where I have previously published several articles about Colombia. It's similar to the previous post, but geared at a wider audience. Enjoy!

A mural worked on by Juárez artists during the Foro. The left side is a depiction of civil society. The right depicts death and destruction by the federal forces and other violent actors. Photograph courtesy of the author.
“Ciudad Juárez won’t be a big deal. You spent two years in Colombia!” my friend reassures me.
“Yeah,” I reply with nervous knots in my stomach, “but isn’t Juárez one of the most dangerous cities in the world?”

The violence wracking Mexico, largely fueled by the country’s drug war, is magnified in the border town of Ciudad Juárez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. So even though I spent two years as a human rights accompanier in Colombia visiting some of the country’s most dangerous regions, the concentration and apparent randomness of the violence in Juárez left me apprehensive about my upcoming trip.

Just days before my departure the last weekend in October, four maquila factory workers were killed and fifteen more injured when gunmen shot up three company buses carrying the workers home. The following weekend, 20 more were killed. Since 2008, the murder rate has surpassed 6,500 in a city of about 1.5 million.