Violence has been considered an endemic feature of Colombian history. During the last few decades it has extended to all levels of society and the most remote corners of the country. Millions of people displaced by years of drug related violence and armed conflict among guerrilla forces, paramilitary groups and the army, live in conditions of severe poverty in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. According to recent estimates around 4 million people (over 10% of the entire population) were displaced in Colombia, making it the country facing the larger number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in the world.
Three elements are crucial in understanding the complex dynamics of this armed conflict: the increasing importance of territorial rather than ideological dominance in political dynamics, the privatization of territorial control at the expense of state sovereignty and vengeance, the source of a perpetually reproduced spiral of violence, not only at the political but also at the private level of rural (and increasingly urban) family life. The process has significantly intensified during the tenure of President Uribe, who came to power in 2002. According to Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (Codhes) each day over 1500 people are displaced in all parts of Colombia.
Behind the statistics, the overwhelming numbers and numerous sociological studies, are people. At the core of every article or news report, lies a human story. The IDPs of Colombia are victims of an endless circle of violence constantly struggling to find refuge with no known source of comfort or security. The plight of Colombia’s IDPs goes beyond the physical violence. IDPs suffer from unsanitary conditions resulting in disease, malnutrition, lack of education, and loss of documentation including identity papers.
Displaced communities tend to exist on the outskirts of Colombia’s major cities, on land that is of minimal economic value to larger landholders. These initial territorial occupations are followed by construction of basic housing out of whatever material is available. The conditions faced by displaced people once they reach the larger cities are predictable and indistinguishable, except for the physical attributes associated with the particular location. Food and clean water are often hard to come by and work is usually highly exploitative or simply not available. The majority of houses lack the plumbing necessary for running water, leading to low hygiene standards resulting in the spread of diseases.
There is no clear or immediate solution to end this on going conflict either through military means or negotiations. The personal stories and experiences of these people, the identities behind the reports and statistics, ought to be contemplated, preserved and remembered. This project invites viewers to actively consider how such an aggressively volatile situation came to pass, and continues with no end in site.