COLOMBIA: Colonialism lives
27 December 2005
COLOMBIA: Colonialism Lives
by Suzanna Collerd
[NOTE: In November, Suzanna Collerd and Noah Dillard returned to the
Department (Province) of Cauca, Colombia to accompany the Nasa people who
were trying to reclaim the land that has been promised to them by the
Colombian government. To read more about these actions see 7 October 2005
CPTnet release, "Walking the Word." Currently, the Colombian government
has committed to negotiations with the indigenous leadership organizations.]
The police met my teammate and me as we climbed hills toward the camps of
the Nasa community. The commanding officer, Colonel Moreno, started to
talk to the group of indigenous leaders/guards who accompanied us. "You
are all the same; you need to talk to your people," he said, "What is it
you want? You need to make up your mind.
Our president is sitting down to negotiate and you continue to occupy
this land. Don't you understand this is private property?"
One of the indigenous leaders accompanying us had the written agreement
to negotiate in his hand and he pointed out that there is no part of the
agreement that stipulated the community must leave their land. He also
told Moreno that the people did not have a lot of confidence in the
government because they have not complied with agreements made in the
Moreno replied, "Those were other presidents who were all corrupt. Now
we have the Paisa* President. If we cannot trust him, whom can we trust?"
(*Paisa refers to Colombians from the province of Antioquia. This province
is known to have largest concentration of Colombians of European descent,
and its people are known for the colonization of other areas of the
Later in the week my teammate and I had the opportunity to get to know a
Christian community in rural Cauca that works hard to offer alternative
crop options to coca. This community is 99%
indigenous, yet the woman who showed us around is white. While she showed
me the system they use to cultivate delicate crops, she said," You see
indigenous people are all lazy. All of the good things here have been
brought by white people."
Throughout my time in Cauca I noticed that the majority of the population
is of African and indigenous descent, but the police officers, pastors and
large landholders are often white. The use of force, land seizures, and
evangelism continue to colonize the Colombians not of European descent.
These tools are the mechanisms that reinforce the idea that only the white
system is acceptable. Both Colonel Moreno and the white Christian leader
demonstrated that they view the ways that Indigenous and Afro-Colombians
relate to the land and call for their rights as inferior and unacceptable.
Their blatantly racist views are shared, consciously and unconsciously, by
many peoples whose ancestors came from countries that colonized the