Colombia journal

Gregarious full voice, skylit eyes that we’ve encountered in so many Colombians, it never goes away though there are times they mark and times they mask. He’s mentioned his farm up in the hills, it takes trustful circling for us to piece it together. Margaret asks him about the landscape, about the history of this perfect for bikepacking pocked shushing cold dirt road casually distractedly dispensing volcano and glacier glimpses, about his kids living abroad now. Their ages pace the chronology, they grew up while the presence of the FARC would have been a persistent shadow.

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia, galvanized in a 60′s megaphone Marxist lament on class and inequality of wealth, country and city, peasant and magnate, a refrain innumerable parts of which are true or that at least have a decent point: Liberal and Conservative politicos alike accumulate fortunes on the backs of people who work to wonder why they suffer and worry, landless penniless. But then again, such truths are entangled in a history with as much weft as any complex system, the immorality of this shearing thread can’t easily be pulled out without the whole unraveling. And the motivations of men guns revolution can land wide of ideals.

I wonder indirectly, mildly, “…it must have been hard, you must have had mixed feelings when they left….” He’s calm with the words but there’s pain’s tension nearby, as if detectable only in peripheral vision. He’ll tell us about the four stages recalled by locals in the evolution of the FARC: the Soviet backed gifts and help to farmers, the disappeared funding so then the extortion, the chrysalis to drug trade and kidnappings paying for simpler ambitions to power, the present half defeat retreat to shelter offered by Chavez and others.

He will with a crackless voice talk about his in-laws taken and ransom demanded but they’d already been killed. His worry over his son’s love of backcountry exploration, wondering whether he’d come home or happen on an armed party, payoffs to survive only to then be treated as a colluder by the government. Before he does, he grates about overhearing people at the pub in town talk about it like they know when they don’t, creases at the corner of his mouth filling in the theyshouldshutthefuckup.

He takes us to an abandoned encampment, a concrete building and the surrounds that before they came was used for something civil. New-ish graffiti on the walls: “they were not guerrillas.” He explains that sometimes Colombian government operatives and military would round up the homeless or mentally ill, dress them in FARC garb, kill them in order to parade charade successes in responding to the violence.

Now the space is reclaimed only by those needing to shelter their animals in weather, somehow the cowshit smeared corners and floor its own testament.

More on the FARC.

postscript: At no point have we felt the slightest bit in danger in Colombia. The people have been kind and wonderful in embracing us. This is a beautiful place.

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