After the Earthquake: Juan’s Life

By Roberto Gutiérrez

Juan was a construction helper. He lived in Armenia, but his parents were from the Antioquia region, who had fled because of the violence there. The mother of his children was called Teresa. They didn’t live together. But most of the money he made went to support her and the children.

This daily routine and its contagious magic was shattered into a thousand pieces when the earth roared. Buildings, houses and shakes were falling down everywhere, taking with them lives, dreams and illusions. The common people gave the most number of victims, thousands of homes destroyed and possessions dissolved into nothing.

The earth also swallowed pride and arrogance; it buried all vanity. All of a sudden, Juan found himself in a world of equality in which the rich, with tears in their eyes, had to stand in line to get water or a bit of bread. Suffering and misfortune united them with the poor. They had to suffer through death and displacement so that a bit of humbleness and solidarity could emerge.

Juan also suddenly became a person with a high sense of solidarity. He dedicated his time to helping the injured and recovering bodies. Later, Juan forcefully advocated for his rights and those of his community to nongovernmental organizations and the Fund for the Reconstruction of the Coffee Belt (FOREC), because he had observed that the organizations suffered from insititutional deafness. Juan became part of a community. There, he shared with many families; he identified the needs of the disaster victims and began to otganize the community. He gave so much time to this effort that for the first time he began to see a direction in his life. He stopped smoking marijuana, complaining and being indifferent to the needs of others and began to understand the nature of collaboration.

Taken from: Amariz, Oswaldo, “Expresiones Comunitarias: en un lugar del eje ...”, Zona Uno, No. 4, November 2000, p. 5. cited in Tomado del caso sobre FOREC (Noviembre 2001) prepared by Roberto Gutiérrez, Associater Professor of Business Administration, University of the Andes and General Coordinator Social Enterprise Knowledge Network ( The entire case can be read in Spanish:

Roberto Gutiérrez is an Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of the Andes and General Coordinator of the Social Enterprise Knowledge Network.