Sep 27

Scenes from the Peace Signing in Medellin

colombia peace signing

 

Yesterday (September 26, 2016) the Colombian state and the FARC guerrilla group (now officially a political party) put pen to paper on a peace deal that has taken over 4 years to agree on, which puts an end to a war which began in 1964 and has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and affected millions of others. The deal still has to approved by the Colombian people in this Sunday’s plebiscite, but yesterday was seen by many people as a day of celebration, with large concerts and peace parties held throughout the country. I was in Medellin (where we have an actual physical office these days! The days of the metaphorical See Colombia Travel Towers are behind us it seems!) for the signing and I went along to the Pablo Tobón Uribe Theatre to watch the signing on a big screen. The event had a carnival vibe, with ‘Si’ t-shirts being printed, live graffiti artwork being painted, and a great concert by the Latin Grammy-nominated Explosion Negra to finish. Whatever your political opinion, be it ‘SI’ or ‘NO’, it was undeniably a hugely historic day for Colombia, and it showed in the atmosphere. The reactions to the signing and the speeches varied, with huge cheers reserved for the moment pen was put to paper, for the head negotiator Humberto de la Calle (future Colombian president anyone?!) and for the moment ‘Timochenko’ of the FARC asked for forgiveness from all Colombians for his group’s crimes. President Santos’ speech seemed to have more ups-and-downs, with many people wishing he had also asked for forgiveness for the state’s crimes in the conflict. There were some moments of brevity, such as when ‘Timochenko’ stumbled on his way to the stage, and when reacted with shock and fright to the sonic boom of a plan flying overhead. He joked that they were celebrating peace, not dropping bombs, and the palpable tension eased. You can see a live video I made at the scene of the broadcast at the bottom of the page, and here is a photo gallery of the signing of peace as I experienced it here in Medellin…

 

colombia peace signing
The Colombian flag was naturally a fixture of the day

 

colombia peace signing
There was an area where t-shirts were being printed with the ‘SI’ logo for free, you just needed to bring a t-shirt…

 

colombia peace signing
…or a Colombia football shirt!

 

colombia peace signing
There was a strong representation of young people in the crowd

 

colombia peace signing
And one group of activist students staged a symbolic burial of war in Colombia, complete with a coffin and flowers!

 

colombia peace signing
“Here lies the oldest armed conflict in the Americas – Rest in Peace – 1964-2016”

 

colombia peace signing
But it wasn’t just the young people either: many older people came with wine and food and were hugging and crying by the end. This man sought me out after the ceremony to shake my hand.

 

colombia peace signing
One of the ‘peace picnics’

 

colombia peace signing
“This is a great day”

 

colombia peace signing
Broad grins like this one were a feature of the afternoon

 

colombia peace signing
It was a pleasantly relaxed and happy atmosphere

 

colombia peace signing
People were lining up to have their ‘Photo for Peace’ taken

 

colombia peace signing
Two artists also came along to paint a live ‘SI’ mural before proceedings began

 

colombia peace signing
Women’s groups, gay rights groups, Afro-Colombian and Indigenous groups were all well represented

 

colombia peace signing
The ‘SI’ vote was heavily represented

 

colombia peace signing
FARC leader ‘Timochenko’ signs the agreement, to large cheers from the crowd

 

colombia peace signing
After over 50 years of war, it all seemed so simple at the end – two signatures in a notebook to put an official end to the conflict

 

colombia peace signing
Peace and equality were the themes of the day, a magical and memorable day for many millions of Colombians

 

Whatever happens on Sunday, and for the record I’m hoping for a ‘Yes’, yesterday was a monumental day in not just Colombian history, but global history. A day that showed that any conflict, no matter how deep the hurt goes and how long the fight has been fought, can be resolved. Let us hope that it can begin to usher in a new period of prosperity and peace for a nation that has suffered for too long.

Chris

 

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2 thoughts on “Scenes from the Peace Signing in Medellin

  1. cristina on

    1964? No exactly! Real date was 1948. Has been two periods… but this is a long long story…
    I always proud to be born in Colombia. ALWAYS despite of circunstances. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS.

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Cristina, thanks for your comment. The date 1964 was used in this post as it is the date commonly accepted as the beginning of the official war with the FARC guerrillas (founded in 1964 after the bombing of Marquetalia; officially named FARC in La Uribe in Meta in 1966), and the line in the article is referring to the end of that specific war which was the result of this week’s peace signing. Therefore it makes sense to use that date when referring to the length of the conflict with this specific armed group known as FARC. Colombia’s modern violence certainly began with Gaitan’s assassination in ’48 and the Liberal and Conservative violence that sprung from that incident, which lead to the ultimate formation of guerrilla groups like the FARC and the ELN. However, as the peace signing specifically deals with ending the conflict between the state and the FARC 1964 is the appropriate year to reference in this context. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

      Reply

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