Organizations Like Bamboo: Trabajo psicosocial en Colombia

May 2, 2013

This post is about three years in the making. More to come next week on www.PorVida.org.

Organizations Like Bamboo: Resilience in Colombia

The conversation on care in US social movements has had me thinking about how we draw lines around what is and is not considered “movement,” or “care,” or “practice.” My own perspective around this was expanded through interactions with Colombian activists who, in their struggles for fundamental rights land, gender justice, environmental and other rights clearly weave together strategies of resilience promotion with base-building, advocacy, direct action and other marcos estratégicos. The conditions on the ground are distinct; death threats, for instance, are routine for many organizers. Still I think it’s worth reflecting on the integration of emotional, mental, spiritual and organizational wellness currently underway insuramérica.

Continue reading at Plan to Thrive or at UpsideDownWorld.org


The Barí & Their Neighbors

March 24, 2010

I forgot to post this last summer, busily helping plan a week of actions on Colombia. Check out the press hits! But I digress.

Nico sent along some helpful feedback that didn’t make it into the published draft, pointing out among other things that state violence is the primary barrier to organizing and partnership. “i think it’s important to make clear that not all colonos have that mentality…  what about the colonos who organized in marquetalia?? 🙂  i think there is definitely a stigmatization of colonos of being very individualistic, but in any given community, you seen signs of people helping each other out.” He also pointed out that there are in fact indigenous guerrilleros, and the FARC aren’t anymore likely to target indigenous or campesinos.

Editors. Editors are important. Preguntando caminamos…

Published in Left Turn (June 2009)

An Unlikely Alliance: Indigenous and Campesinos Build an Alliance for Self-Defense

By Andrew Willis Garcés

To reach one of the Colombian indigenous tribes that overlaps with Venezuela, you first need to get to the town of Honduras, in the municipality of Convención in the Norte de Santander department. It is accessible by a precarious, one-lane dirt road hugging the eastern spine of the Andes Mountains; average speed, about 12 mph. From there you walk or, if you’re lucky, ride a donkey past acres of relatively new coca fields and forest being cleared for that or pasture. After four hours you’ll arrive at the state Catatumbo-Barí Forest Reserve and the small village of Bridicayra, one of the few remaining indigenous Barí settlements.

Though hard to reach, the area is highly coveted by multinationals, some of which sent proxies this past January to a bi-annual assembly of Barí leaders, in hopes of enlisting them in the cause of resource exploitation. Twenty-three of all Barí towns were represented at the assembly in Bridicayra. Also in attendance were lawyers, environmental ministry officials, journalists, and documentarians. However the most unlikely guests the Barí shared space with during the assembly weren’t these urban professionals, but local campesinos.

Read the rest of this entry »


Al-Jazeera English report on the impact of US military aid & new bases agreement

December 19, 2009

Great English-language news video reports on Colombia are hard to come by. Let alone reports that feature prominently the voices of survivors and human rights defenders, and cast a critical eye on US military aid.

Fortunately, there is Fault Lines.

Part 1

Part 2


From the other side

June 30, 2009

Yesterday Álvaro Uribe Vélez had his first meeting with Barack Obama. Hundreds of us in the District of Columbia came out to demand that Obama keep his promise to be an ally to victims of state violence. Also present were ten bodies of slain Colombian human rights defenders, chained together on H Street NW. Their message: Remember.



Eyes upon the eyes

April 12, 2009

The title comes from a poem written as the NYC Independent Media Center was being surrounded by police at a protest in 2004. The reference has been on my mind what with the threats – many state-sponsored – independent media activists face in Colombia, and the persistence of my heroes at Prensa Rural, who continue to accompany and amplify movement voices in seemingly ever more dangerous regions, far beyond what’s visible on their site.

Let’s start with gratitude to an awesome Bay Area radio show,  La Raza Chronicles on KPFA, for giving Latin American social movements a voice on US airwaves, and featuring this blog last week.

I’ve been asked by folks in the US what media projects exist here. I encourage Spanish-reading folks (ACIN, Prensa Rural and the IMC have some articles in English) to check these below. But all the links to the right are foreign sites in English.

News Video


  • Rebelión – maintained by an international collective of volunteer activist translators
  • Prensa Rural – the only media activists focused on amplifying & capacitando campesino movements
  • ACIN Communications Collective – news on indigenous movements in the southwest
  • Colombia IMC
  • Desde Abajo – these folks also produce one of the few widely available Left print newspapers
  • Anarcol – anarchist news from Colombia and around the world



That’s the good news. But since activists often receive threats or worse after being singled out in public by government officials, the “official” line is worth keeping in mind. So many challenges even to mundane journalism. Here’s some video with subtitles by CIP featuring “footage of some of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe’s recent attacks on journalists and peace activists, in some cases falsely tying them to terrorist groups.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Alvaro Uribe and Freedom of Expressio…“, posted with vodpod

Hollman Morris, ironically enough, won a press freedom award. Uribe’s comments were immediately denounced by folks in many places, and have provoked an international campaign to protect human rights defenders and journalists, currently in formation.


Colombia: Fighting Development Banks for the Human Right to Water

March 31, 2009

Published on Upside Down World

More fotos.

This week five hundred people representing over a hundred social movement groups from across the Americas gathered in Medellín for a People’s Development Alternatives Assembly coinciding with the 50th anniversary meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank.

With the slogan “IADB: 50 Years Funding Inequality. Enough!,” the assembly organizers put forward a program of workshops and spaces for social movement dialogue, combined with public marches and visible denouncements of what they call US neoliberal policies writ large on Latin America.

Read the rest of this entry »



March 30, 2009

For a long time I’ve been struck by one of the most significant distinctions between US and Latin American social movements, the level of intersectional/interlocking dialogue and active construction between activists in different sectors and working on separate issues. A friend joked to me that Colombia is the country of the “network of the network,” with at least a dozen intersectional networks like the  CONAP, Proceso Popular, COEUROPA, and then sectoral and regional subgroups.

I saw this clearly on March 18 at a demonstration in the capital to support a national referendum that would insert the human right to water in the country’s constitution, the March in Defense of Water. Water privatization has yet to get a national focus in the US, even though Atlanta and some midwestern cities have gone private.  In Colombia, where water is always listed by indigenous and campesino groups in the list of coveted resources available in rural zones, and 50% of the utilities have been privatized in 15 years, it’s a different story. It was a festival of solidarity. Many different public and private sector unions (including local delegations from around the country), the ONIC indigenous federation, environmentalists, water consumers associations, disabled activists, high school and university students, artists, anarchist collectives, feminists – everyone had their banner, and most a rally speaking slot. A TON of youth came out and organized a huge, modified nursery school game in the middle of the march.

Here’s video.

And the music. Aterciopelados have been involved in the fight to preserve natural water sources for years, naming their most recent album Rio (river) and travelling by boat to collect signatures for the referendum. Apparently they played at a different rally last weekend. Here’s their “Cancion Protesta.”

This local all-women hip-hop group played at the March 18th rally. Por Razones de Estado, For Reasons of State.