About the Author
Marco Palacios is Professor at El Colegio de México and Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, and the author of many books, including Between Legitimacy and Violence: A History of Colombia, 1875–2002, also published by Duke University Press.
Ana María Gómez López is an artist and independent scholar.
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The Colombia Reader
History, Culture, Politics
By Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Marco Palacios, Ana María Gómez López, Carolina Navas
Duke University PressCopyright © 2017 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
Boasting Andean peaks, a port on the Amazon River, and coasts along both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Colombia's unique interrelation of climate, elevation, and topography creates sharply distinct regional and cultural differentiation. One way to sketch a simplified map of regions and subregions is to trace five broad areas:
1. Colombia's Caribbean: This is bisected by the Magdalena River; it extends westward to Panama and eastward to the Guajira peninsula and Venezuela.
2. The Eastern Cordillera: Known in the colonial period as El Reino (The Kingdom), this refers to a large region that coheres in cultural terms and includes Cundinamarca, Boyacá, the Santanderes, Huila, and Tolima — even though the last two are not part of the eastern mountains.
3. Oriente: The eastern grasslands, known as los Llanos, transition to the South into the Colombian Amazon. The grasslands and Amazonia are very different, but together they form a borderlands region that connects Colombia to Venezuela and the Orinoco watershed, as well as to northwestern Brazil.
4. Occidente: This complex area must be understood as a set of subregions: first, what Colombians will refer to as Greater Cauca, which includes the political departments of Cauca and Valle de Cauca and is often understood in reference to the cities of Popayán and Cali; second, a broad zone culturally bound by its having been an agricultural frontier in the late nineteenth century, including most of what are now the political departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío; third, the southernmost mountains, culturally rooted in an Andean indigenous experience that cuts across Colombia's borders with Ecuador and Peru.
5. The Pacific Lowlands: Colombia's long Pacific coast, from Panama to the Ecuadorian border and from the westernmost foothills of the Andes down to the sea, is associated with riches, in the form of enormous biodiversity and huge quantities of exported gold and platinum, as well as with immense poverty.
Texts in this introductory part provide glimpses of the historical, cultural, and political patterns that tie Colombian regions to a shared idea of "nation." We include extracts of well-known pieces, such as Jiménez de Quesada's chronicle of his conquest of what he named "New Granada," and José Eustasio Rivera's famous descriptions of the Colombian Amazon. Yet our geographic overview cuts in unusual directions as well — toward a cultural imaginary that stretches from attempts to recover pre-Columbian mythic spaces to New York City and the World Cup, myths in themselves.
Indigenous peoples' knowledge of the rich biodiversity of Colombia's ecosystems has long enabled their cultural survival. Communities survived against violent colonial systems of control and then against development projects and natural resource exploitation in the national period. Today, eighty-five indigenous communities make up approximately 1.5 percent of the population and live in arid deserts, littoral mangrove swamps, tropical rainforests, and high-altitude grasslands. Their survival has depended on organized projects of self-affirmation and resistance, such as the political struggle that resulted in Colombia's 1991 Constitution, which officially recognizes cultural and ethnic diversity and cedes 25 percent of the country's national territory to indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. Although its implementation is riddled with complications, this legal achievement provided official acknowledgment of land as a foundational principle for indigenous and Afro-Colombian worldviews — something activists insisted on as the Constitution was drafted.
The compilation, transcription, and publication of indigenous oral tradition began as a colonial project and has been continued by local and foreign anthropologists since the early twentieth century, and Austro-Colombian Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff (1912–94) has been a key figure. He became a Colombian citizen in 1942 and with his wife, Alicia Dussán, conducted pioneering ethnographic fieldwork among several indigenous groups, as well as archaeological excavations of pre-Columbian artifacts nationwide. Later generations of anthropologists have debated his legacy and his understandings. For example, his version of a Tukano narration about Ahpikondiá, which some take as an underworld paradise and others understand as the Milky Way, may reflect the interest Reichel-Dolmatoff and his generation took in creation myths more than it describes a deep cosmovision for indigenous people living along the Vaupés River. Reichel-Dolmatoff often worked in contexts where indigenous people exercised little power, as in the Vaupés, and the narrations he collected reflect cultural influences that were more diverse than he let on, given that he wrote about indigenous communities that had been targeted by missionaries and military recruiters. Ahpikondiá and other invisible geographies are by now products of modern Colombia — a nation that has an anthropological sense of itself and that increasingly recognizes an inheritance that includes multiple creation stories.
The Sun had created the earth with its animals and plants, but there were still no people. Now he decided to people the earth, and for this he made a man of each tribe of the Vaupés; he made a Desana and a Pira-Tapuya, a Uanano, a Tuyuka, and others, one from each tribe. Then, to send the people to the earth, the Sun made use of a being called Pamurí-mahsë. He was a man, a creator of people, whom the Sun sent to people the earth. Pamurí-mahsë was in Ahpikondiá, and he set forth from there in a large canoe. It was a live canoe, in reality a large snake that swam on the bottom of the river. This Snake-Canoe was called pamurí-gahsíru, and its skin was painted yellow and had stripes with black diamonds. On the inside, which was red, sat the people: a Desana, a Pira-Tapuya, a Uanano, one from each tribe. Together with the SnakeCanoe came the fish; but they were not in the inside but outside, in the gills; the crabs also came, attached to the rear. It was a very long journey, and the Snake-Canoe was going up the river because Pamurí-mahsë was going to establish mankind at the headwaters. Whenever they arrived at a large rapids, the Snake-Canoe made the waters rise in order to pass by and caused the torrent to be calm. Thus they went on for a long time, and the people became very tired.
At that time night did not yet exist, and so they traveled in the light, always under the yellow light of the Sun. When the first men set forth, the Sun had given each one something, some object, for him to carry carefully. To one of them he had given a small, black purse, closed tightly, and now, with the journey being so long, the man looked inside the purse. He did not know what was inside. He opened it, and suddenly a multitude of black ants came out of the purse, so many that they covered the light, making everything dark. This was the First Night. Pamurí-mahsë gave to each man a firefly in order to light his way, but the light was very weak. The ants multiplied, and the men tried to invoke them to return to the purse, but at that time they did not know about invocations. Then the Sun Father himself descended and with a stick beat the purse and made the ants enter it again. But those which did not obey remained in the forest and made their anthills. From that time on there have been ants. Once the ants were inside the purse, the light returned; but since then night has come into existence. This was the First Night, nyamí mengá, the Night of the Ant, and the man who had opened the purse was called nyamíri mahsë, Man of Night.
So they continued on in the Snake-Canoe, but when they arrived at Ipanoré, on the Vaupés River, they struck against a large rock near the bank. The people went ashore because they were tired of the long journey and thought that they had already reached their destination. They left by way of an opening at the prow of the canoe. Pamurí-mahsë did not want them to disembark there because he was thinking of taking them to the headwaters of the rivers, and therefore he stopped up the opening with his foot. But the people had already got out, having rushed from the Snake-Canoe; they were dispersing throughout the rivers and the forests. But before they got away, Pamurímahsë gave each one of them the objects they had brought from Ahpikondiá and that, from then on, were going to indicate the future activities of each tribe. He gave a bow and arrow to the Desana; to the Tukano, the Pira-Tapuya, Vaiyára, and the Neéroa he gave a fishing rod; to the Kuripáko he gave the manioc grater; he gave a blowgun and a basket to the Makú and a mask of barkcloth to the Cubeo. He gave a loincloth to each one, but to the Desana he gave only a piece of string. He pointed out the places where each tribe should live, but when he was about to indicate the future home of the Desana, this one had fled to seek refuge at the headwaters. The Uanano had also gone and went up to the clouds in the sky. Then Pamurí-mahsë entered the Snake-Canoe again and returned to Ahpikondiá.
The Sun created the various beings so that they would represent him and serve as intermediaries between him and the earth. To these beings he gave the duty of caring for and protecting his Creation and of promoting the fertility of life.
First the Sun created Emëkóri-mahsë and Diroá-mahsë and put them in the sky and in the rivers so that, from there, they could protect the world. Emëkóri-mahsë is the Being of Day, and his job is to set down all the norms, the rules, and the laws according to which the spiritual life of human beings should develop. Diroá-mahsë, who is the Being of Blood, is in charge of all that is corporeal, all that is connected with health and the good life. Then he created Vihó-mahsë, the Being of Vihó, the hallucinogenic powder, and ordered him to serve as an intermediary so that through hallucinations people could put themselves in contact with all the other supernatural beings. The powder of vihó itself had belonged to the Sun who had kept it hidden in his navel, but the Daughter of the Sun had scratched his navel and had found the powder. While Emëkóri-mahsë and Diroámahsë always represent the principle of good, the Sun gave Vihómahsë the power of being good and evil and put him in the Milky Way as the owner of sickness and witchcraft.
Then the Sun created Vaí-mahsë, the Master of Animals. There are two beings called Vaí-mahsë, one for the animals of the forest and the other for the fish. The Sun assigned to each one the places where he ought to live; one was given a large maloca inside the rocky hills of the forest, and the other a large maloca at the bottom of the waters of the rapids. He put them there so that they could watch over the animals and their multiplication. Together with the Vaí-mahsë of the waters, the Sun put Vaí-bogó, the Mother of Fish. The Sun also created Wuá, the Owner of Thatch, the owner of the palm leaves that are used to make the roofs of the malocas.
Then the Sun created Nyamikëri-mahsë, the Night People, and put them in the Dark Region to the west of Ahpikondiá. To them he gave the job of serving as intermediaries for witchcraft and sorcery, because the Sun did not create only the principle of good but also of evil, to punish mankind when it did not follow the customs of tradition.
Then the Sun created the jaguar so that he would represent him in this world. He gave him the color of his power and gave him the voice of thunder that is the voice of the Sun; he entrusted him to watch over his Creation and to protect it and take care of it, especially of the malocas. The Sun created all these beings so that there would be life in this world.
Photographs of Indigenous People
An important part of Reichel-Dolmatoff's legacy is found in his published photographs of indigenous people. For communities in the present, grandparents or great-grandparents are sometimes recognizable in such images, and activists today have a complicated relationship with the visual record left by anthropologists. On the one hand, a beautiful and enduring image may be one way to document the skills and autonomy of previous generations. On the other, these are photographs that testify to the power of the outsider. An indigenous person might or might not have given permission for an image to be circulated, and they might or might not have been credited by name in any given publication.
In the current generation, indigenous activists in Colombia are sophisticated about the political implications of self-representation. They mobilize resources to produce photography, television segments, and documentaries that would have been impossible to create a generation ago. A minority group of professionally trained indigenous people work as anthropologists, writers, photographers, videographers, and documentary filmmakers. They struggle to create representations that respond to a community's sense of itself, but they are aware that heterogeneous viewpoints within their own communities make that a complex project. One example among various is the work of the Zigoneshi Communications Collective in the region of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which has produced work addressing political autonomy, guerrilla violence, and the threat that global warming poses to the snowy peaks of their home region, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta — some of it available via the Internet. Much has changed since Reichel-Dolmatoff took the pictures reproduced here, but much has not. Finding ways to convey the political urgency of indigenous people's struggles to retain autonomy remains a challenge, even if it is now taken up in new ways.
Reichel-Dolmatoff's photographs can be taken as tokens both of anthropological understanding and of misunderstanding, especially in the way that images he published alongside his written descriptions of indigenous life have circulated to a broad international audience. People around the world know more about indigenous cultures because of his anthropological work, but sometimes the way a scrap of knowledge is framed means that outsiders feel they understand more than perhaps they do. For example, when urbanites read a description of the use an indigenous group makes of a psychoactive plant, whether Erythroxylum novogranatense (a species of coca) or Banisteriopsis caapi (used to prepare the hallucinogenic tea known as ayahuasca or yagé), they may jump to unwarranted conclusions. Similarly, when a photograph's caption describes a person as "Tukano," the viewer may imagine that as a clearly demarcated ethnicity within the geographic space of the Colombian Amazon, which would be an error. In this region, language exogamy structured traditional social life: that is, for generations people took marriage partners from communities that spoke a language different from their paternal one (and children grew up in multilingual family contexts). Tukano was thus a language spoken in contexts where multilingualism was more the norm than an ethnic label as such. In Reichel-Dolmatoff's photograph of women he identifies as "Guajiro," and for whom others would use the term "Wayúu," there is also a slipperiness as to what viewers learn from the image and from his caption. The anthropologist was on the Guajira peninsula, part of Colombia's northernmost coastline, in the context of research done not only by him but also by his wife, Alicia Dussán de Reichel, a researcher in her own right, and by Virginia Gutiérrez de Pineda. Reichel's inclusion of a gender perspective in his caption for the image included here may owe a lot to the work done by Dussán, Gutiérrez, and a select group of other women researchers who traveled to the peninsula in the 1940s and 1950s and carefully collected data to demonstrate the relative egalitarianism of Wayúu groups. Did the presence of women fieldworkers shape the way the seated women appear in the photograph? Scholars and cultural critics are only beginning to understand the complexity involved in mid-twentieth-century representations of indigenous life.
"One after the Other, They All Fell under Your Majesty's Rule": Lands Loyal to the Bogotá Become New Granada
Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and Anonymous
In 1536 Colombia's most important river, the Magdalena, may have been known as the Yuma, Guacahayo, Manúkaka, or Kariguañá, among other names, by people living at different points along its banks. But for the conquistador Jiménez de Quesada, setting off upriver in search of treasure and the chance to claim land for the Spanish Crown, the region's massive artery was the Río Grande, as it was called by Spanish soldiers living in the garrison town of Santa Marta, a precarious coastal settlement founded eleven years previously as a stopping-off place for Spanish ships.
Excerpted from The Colombia Reader by Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Marco Palacios, Ana María Gómez López, Carolina Navas. Copyright © 2017 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Table of ContentsCover Title Copyright Contents Acknowledgments Introduction I. Human Geography Ahpikondiá, Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff Photographs of Indigenous People, Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff “One after the Other, They All Fell Under Your Majesty’s Rule”: Lands Loyal to the Bogotá Become New Granada, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and Anonymous A City in the African Diaspora, Anonymous and Álvaro José Arroyo Crossing to Nationhood across a Cabuya Bridge in the Eastern Andes, Manuel Ancízar A Gaping Mouth Swallowing Men, José Eustasio Rivera Frontier “Incidents” Trouble Bogotá, Jane M. Rausch and Alfredo Villamil Fajardo Crab Antics on San Andrés and Providencia, Peter Wilson Pacific Coast Communities and Law 70 of 1993, Senate of the Republic of Colombia Toward a History of Colombian Musics, Egberto Bermúdez Colombian Soccer Is Transformed: The Selección Nacional in the 1990s, Andrés Dávila Ladrón de Guevara Colombian Queens, Jaime Manrique II. Religious Pluralities: Faith, Intolerance, Politics, and Accommodation Idolators and Encomenderos, Fray Jerónimo de San Miguel Miracles Made Possible by African Interpreters, Anna María Splendiani and Tulio Aristizábal, SJ My Soul, Impoverished and Unclothed . . . , Francisca Josefa Castillo A King of Cups, Gregorio José Rodríguez Carrillo, Bishop of Cartagena Courting Papal Anger: The “Scandal” of Mortmain Property, Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera Liberalism and Sin, Anonymous, Rafael Uribe Uribe, and Andrés Botero Sabina, Bring Some Candles to Light to the Virgin, Albalucía Ángel Processions and Festivities, Nereo López, Richard Cross, and Nina Sánchez de Friedemann We Were Not Able to Say That We Were Jewish, Paul Hané As a Colombian, as a Sociologist, as a Christian, and as a Priest, I Am a Revolutionary, Camilo Torres Restrepo Who Stole the Chalice from Badillo’s Church?, Rafael Escalona Life Is a Birimbí, Rodrigo Parra Sandoval Our Lady of the Assassins, Fernando Vallejo One Woman’s Path to Pentecostal Conversion, Elizabeth Brusco La Ombligada, Sergio Antonio Mosquera A Witness to Impunity, Javier Giraldo, SJ III. City and Country Emptying the “Storehouse” of Indian Labor and Goods, Anonymous: “Encomiendas, encomenderos e indígenas tributarios del Nuevo Reino de Granada” To Santafé! To Santafé!, Anonymous: Capitulaciones de Zipaquirá Killing a Jaguar, Jorge Isaacs The Time of the Slaves Is Over, Candelario Obeso A Landowner’s Rules, Ángel María Caballero Muleteers on the Road, Beatríz Helena Robledo Campesino Life in the Boyacá Highlands, Orlando Fals Borda One Lowland Town Becomes a World: Gabriel García Márquez Returning to Aracataca, Gabriel García Márquez The Bricklayers: 1968 on Film, Jorge Rufinelli Switchblades in the City, Arturo Álape, Interview with Jesús Desplazado: “Now I Am Here as an Outcast,” Anonymous An Agrarian Counterreform, Luis Bernardo Flórez Enciso IV. Lived Inequalities Rules Are Issued for Different Populations: Indians, Blacks, Non-Christians, Anonymous: Libro de acuerdos de la Audiencia Real del Nuevo Reino de Granada The Marqués and Marquesa of San Jorge, Joaquín Gutiérrez An Indian Nobleman Petitions His King, Diego de Torres A Captured Maroon Faces His Interrogators, Francisco Angola Carrasquilla’s Characters: La Negra Narcisa, el Amito Martín, and Doña Bárbara, Tomás Carrasquilla Carried through the Streets of Bogotá: Grandmother’s Sedan Chair, Eduardo Caballero Calderón The Street-Car Bogotá of New Social Groups: Clerks, Switchboard Operators, Pharmacists, Augusto Morales Pino It Is a Norm among Us to Believe That a Woman Cannot Act on Her Own Criteria, María Cano I Energetically Protest in Defense of Truth and Justice, Manuel Quintín Lame Bringing Presents from Abroad, Manuel Zapata Olivella Cleaning for Other People, Anna Rubbo and Michael Taussig A Feminist Writer Sketches the Interior Life and Death of an Upper-Class Woman, Marvel Moreno Barranquilla’s First Gay Carnival Queen, Gloria Triana, Interview with Lino Fernando Romance Tourism, Felicity Schaeffer-Grabiel They Are Using Me as Cannon Fodder, Flaco Flow and Melanina V. Violence Captains and Criminals, Juan Rodríguez Freile War to the Death, Simón Bolívar A Girl’s View of War in the Capital, Soledad Acosta de Samper Let This Be Our Last War, José María Quijano Wallis The “Silent Demonstration” of February 7, 1948, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Dead Bodies Appear on the Streets, Gustavo Álvarez Gardeazábal Cruelty Acted as a Stimulant, José Gutiérrez Rodríguez Two Views of the National Front, Álvaro Gómez Hurtado and Ofelia Uribe de Acosta Starting Points for the FARC and the ELN, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia and Ejército de Liberación Nacional Where Is Omaira Montoya?, María Tila Uribe and Francisco J. Trujillo We Prefer a Grave in Colombia to a Cell in the United States, Los Extraditables A Medic’s Life within a Cocaine-Fueled Paramilitary Organization, Diego Viáfara Salinas Carlos Castaño “Confesses,” Mauricio Arangurén Molina The Song of the Flies, María Mercedes Carranza Kidnapped, Major General Luis Mendieta Ovalle Parapolitics, Claudia López and Óscar Sevillano Turning Points in the Colombian Conflict, 1960s–1990s, Joseph Fabry, James Mollison, Robert Romero Ospina, Daniel Jiménez, El Espectador, and Ricardo Mazalán VI. Change and Continuity in the Colombian Economy El Dorado, Fray Pedro Simón The Conquest Yields Other Treasures: Potatoes, Yucca, Corn, Juan de Castellanos and Galeotto Cei Cauca’s Slave Economy, Germán Colmenares A Jesuit Writes to the King: Profits from Coca Leaf Could Surpass Tea, Antonio Julián Bogotá’s Market, ca. 1850, Agustín Codazzi A Banker Invites Other Bankers to Make Money in Colombia, Phanor James Eder How Many People Were Massacred in 1928?, Telegrams, American Legation in Bogotá and Consul in Santa Marta Strikers or Revolutionaries? Strikers and Revolutionaries?, Mauricio Archila Neira and Raúl Eduardo Mahecha Coffee and “Social Equilibrium,” Federación Nacional de Cafeteros Two Views of a Foreign Mining Enclave: The Chocó Pacífico, Patrick O’Neill and Aquiles Escalante Carlos Ardila Lülle: “How I Got Rich,” Patricia Lara Salive and Jesús Ortíz Nieves The Arrow, David Sánchez Juliao A Portrait of Drug “Mules” in the 1990s, Alfredo Molano Luciano Romero: One among Thousands of Unionists Murdered in Colombia, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and Peter Brabeck-Letmathe VII. Transnational Colombia A Creole Reads the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, Antonio Nariño Humboldt’s Diary, May 1801, Alexander von Humboldt The Most Practical, Because the Most Brutal, José Asunción Silva Grandfather Arrives from Bremen, Pedro Gómez Valderrama We Were Called “Turks,” Elías Saer Kayata Two Presidents’ Views: “I Took the Isthmus” and “I Was Dispossessed, Insulted, and Dishonored to No End,” Theodore Roosevelt and Marco Fidel Suárez Facing the Yankee Enemy, José María Vargas Vila Bogotá’s Art Scene in 1957: “There Is No Room for Any of the Old Servilism,” Marta Traba 1969: The GAO Evaluates Money Spent in Colombia, US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Who Was Where during the Mapiripán Massacre?, Ignacio Gómez Gómez A Minga of Voluntary Eradication, Asociación Popular de Negros Unidos del Rio Yurumanguí (APONURY) Latin American Ex-Presidents Push to Reorient the War on Drugs, Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy A New Export Product: Yo soy Betty, la fea Goes Global, Yeidy Rivero Today We Understand and Can Say No, Lorenzo Muelas Toward a Stable and Enduring Peace, Delegados del Gobierno de la República de Colombia (Gobierno Nacional) and Delegados de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia–Ejército del Pueblo Suggestions for Further Reading Acknowledgment of Copyrights and Sources Index
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