Semana/Trends | 12/19/2008 12:00:00 AM
Violence in Colombian culture: very much in fashion
Kidnapping, massacres, paramilitarism, guerillas and drug trafficking are themes that continue to shake Colombia. Different players from the world of culture have confronted this reality via diverse points of view. For some it was a lucrative business, for others a theme for poetic reflection.
To begin with, during 2008, the big players of the editorial world weren’t writers or poets. This isn’t because they didn’t launch novels, books or poems or because they went on strike or on a year-long sabbatical. It was rather because there were so many news items related to hostages’ escapes and successful Army operations in the fight against the FARC that the editorial houses took advantage of the circumstances in order to publish the memoirs and testimonies by some of the most famous of the newly freed.
Among the titles published include “Mi fuga hacia la libertad,” or “My flight to freedom,” by John Pinchao; “Siete años secuestrado por las Farc,” or “Seven years kidnapped by the FARC,” from Luis Eladio Pérez; “Cartas a mamá desde el infierno,” or “Letters to my Mom from hell,” by Íngrid Betancourt; “El trapecista,” or “The trapeze artist,” from Fernando Araújo and “Desviaron el vuelo, vía crucis de mi secuestro,” or “This flight has been diverted, the via crucis of my kidnapping,” written by Jorge Eduardo Géchem, with a signed prologue by President Álvaro Uribe.
Two novelists have also made a foray into a difficult genre, that of fictionalizing real events. Nahum Montt, in “Lara,” recreates the last days of the life of Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, who was assassinated on April 30, 1984, which was the first assassination of a major figure attributed to drug trafficking. Alonso Sánchez Baute, originally from Valledupar, traced the parallel lives of Ricardo Palmera, alias “Simón Trinidad,” and Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias “Jorge 40,” like the author they are also from Valledupar, in his novel “Líbranos del bien,” or “Liberate us from good.” Literature? Journalism? Both writers put their pens to the service of national tragedy.
But the issue transcends borders. Former hostage Clara Rojas’ book is being edited in France and the publisher Plon announced a distribution of 100,000 copies and the book will be translated into Spanish. The Colombian cultural magazine Arcadia announced that film director Oliver Stone is interested in bringing to cinema the adventures of Luis Eladio Pérez, another hostage.
The Discovery Channel produced a documentary on “Escape from the FARC,” which tells the story of Pinchao. In addition to recreating the 17 days that he spent fleeing in the jungle, the documentary also tells how he and his companions fell to the hands of the guerrillas in 1998 during an attack on the police base in the town of Mitú. The National Geographic Channel presented a special on “Operation Checkmate” directed by Álvaro García the former director of Colombia’s RCN news, in a black-and-white style of the good guys of the Army against the bad guys of the guerillas.
RCN also took unedited material from the operation for a television special which uncovered the irregularities of the unjustified usage of humanitarian insignia and of the media on behalf of some military personnel involved in the liberation of Íngrid Betancourt and other hostages.
Speaking of television, it is worth noting that the TV series “The Cartel,” based on the book “El cartel de los sapos,” written by drug trafficker Andrés López, alias “Florecita,” was the most important production of the year. Two of the main film debuts were also inspired by violence. “PVC-1,” from Spiros Stathoulopoulos, is based on the necklace bomb tragedy. “Perro come perro,” or “Dog eats dog,” by Carlos Moreno is a psychological thriller that takes place in the underworld of drug traffickers and killers.
After the time of “La Violencia” in the 1950s, many visual artists have added a critical look at violence, displacement and paramilitarism, and in many occasions they have contributed a greater sharpness and depth than the media or academia. In 2008, a project which touched these themes from diverse disciplines took place. “Destierro y reparacion,” or “Exile and reparation,” exhibited in the Museo de Antioquia (Medellín) from September 15 to November 15, transcended visual arts as artists, musicians, social scientists, government officials and leaders meditated and discussed violence and displacement. It had the participation of 33 artists, some with works that had previously been completed. Others produced original work for this exposition.
Beatriz González also worked on the theme in her project “Ondas de Rancho Grande.” Based on a photo of Yolanda Izquierdo, a peasant leader who was assassinated by paramilitaries, she produced a poster that was first published in the newspaper El Tiempo in May as a gift for its readers. The image was transformed into a small illustration that was given away at the XLI National Salon of Artists. The art gallery El Mundo in Bogotá, in its collective exposition “La muerte esta viva,” or “Death is alive,” presented works about death from the last 60 years, many of which were related in a direct manner with violence.
Colombian theater was also interested in the subject of massacres. The group Varasanta from Bogotá debuted their work “Frágil alma a la deriva (animula, vagula, blandula),” “Fragile spirits adrift,” a poetic reflection about the rootlessness provoked by massacres. In November at Varasanta’s new home, they presented their work “Kilele” once more, a work based on the Bojayá massacre, as well as an updated version of the monologue “Mujeres en la guerra,” (“Women in war”) by Carlota Llano and based on the book by Patricia Lara. Focused more on his reflections about religion, the artist José Alejandro Restrepo directed the video performance “Vidas ejemplares,” or “Exemplary lives,” in which the actors embody and animate some figures who offered their bodies or were forced to undertake violent rituals and sacrifices.
Rockers are also making a contribution. The song “Errante diamante,” or “Errant diamond,” and its accompanying video was a contribution by the group Aterciopelados to the “Destierro and Reparación” project. It is a heart-rending and beautiful testimony to the saga faced by displaced people.