Category: Contextualizing History

Traces of Memory

“At dawn all was desolation and ruins. Amid the rubble lay the incinerated remains of hostages and guerrillas, their weapons, also calcified, beside them. Few of the bodies retained their human …

Roots of Violence in Colombia

Colombia has suffered from high levels of armed strife for most of its history. The current strife it is experiencing is not unusual either in length or death toll.

Economy and History

At the 20th century’s close, Colombia found itself immersed in a severe crisis entailing both an internal armed conflict and the most severe economic recession in modern history. Although, as …

Colombian Institutions

On one of my recent journeys to Colombia, I bought a toy bus for my kids—a replica of the Transmilenio coaches, the modern line of public transport that crosses Bogotá from north to …

At the Center of Things

It would be difficult to imagine the violence in Colombia occurring in the United States. Before the actual formation of the U.S., the first Anglo colonizers were convinced …

Black in Colombia

English + Español
One out of four Colombians is black. Yet, Colombia’s black community historically has faced discrimination on a racial, social, political, economic and cultural basis. And the community now faces a new risk. On the Pacific Coast, in particular, it is caught in the crossfire between guerrillas …

State Collapse and Early Response

English + Español
In 1992 Boutros Boutros Gali launched his widely known Agenda for Peace. This coincided with the beginning of a change in the United Nations tending to widen its scope of action to confront the internal conflicts that multiplied in the world after the end of the “bi-polar order”. …

Necrological Flora

English + Español
Colombia’s worsening conflict has caused millions of people to move from rural to urban areas and a significant exodus of the middle and upper classes to foreign countries. It has also created a culture that, by witnessing numerous images of death on a daily basis, has come to visually …

Colombia’s Political Economy

English + Español
Colombia is a society characterized by its deep social exclusion. More than 60 percent of the population is poor—more than 11 million Colombians do not even earn a dollar a day and cannot maintain minimal levels of nutrition. Furthermore, 80 percent of the rural population is poor and nearly 60 percent is destitute. …


English + Español
Is Colombia’s state a “failing state”? Does Colombia run the risk of a state collapse? This Latin American nation has worried the international community for several years. One of the worse humanitarian catastrophes in the world, Colombia averages more than 25,000 murders yearly. …


English + Español
“Our Hispanic sister republics have called our capital the Athens of South America,” declared Monsignor María Rafael Carrasquilla, rector of Bogotá’s Our Lady of Rosario School in his opening day speech in 1895. The business about the name wasn’t true, but what mattered was the pathos …

Between Legitimacy and Violence

English + Español
In the year 2000, I spent a sabbatical year at the Faculty of Business Administration at Bogotá’s Universidad de los Andes. Not including short visits, ten years had passed since I had left Colombia, and I had a mix of memories and fixed beliefs about Colombian life. In 1994, I had published a piece on Colombian history that a colleague called “a gloomy vision” of the country. It well should have been. I had left …


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