Jake and I arrived in the rural municipality of San Luis on Friday afternoon without much of a plan. We had been invited to attend an “important meeting” with victims of the conflict on Saturday morning, although the exact purpose, location, time frame, etc., remained unclear.
So on Friday afternoon after getting stood up for our interview with the mayor, we saw the rest of the afternoon/evening stretch out in front of us. We decided to get a beer. Then we wandered around the plaza, bought Jake cheap flip-flops, endured some staring from community members, ate dinner, did laps around the small plaza for a little exercise, watched children play with tops and inflatable balls, and simply let the time pass …
That night in our hotel room, with our heads pressed together on a small pillow that we were sharing – and with reggaeton blasting from the plaza below drowned only somewhat by our room’s small metal fan – we pondered whether our journey to San Luis had been worth it.
On Saturday morning, about 40 community members from my case study area had been selected to receive “collective reparations” from the Colombian federal government. This community had been caught on the crossfire between three armed groups and the Colombian army less than a decade ago, and suffered massive displacement and loss of life. Additionally, the communities lost their crops, their schools, their homes, and their roads. Now the Colombia government is trying to rebuild some of these public goods that were lost during the conflict. The meeting organizers split the community members into five groups and told them to map what their lives were like “before,” “during,” and “after,” the conflict. It was as if someone had organized a workshop on my dissertation and then invited me to attend. Thank you, San Luis!