Conflicts & War

Memory is the path to healing for women of Bogota slum

By Maribel Arenas Vadillo

Bogota, Nov 5 (EFE).- Some 15 km (9 mi) south of the center of Colombia’s capital, Ciudad Bolivar is a sprawling hillside slum whose streets and alleyways are decorated with colorful murals meant to preserve the memories of its inhabitants.

Ciudad Bolivar “was born from a team of friends who built the homes, the sewers, the roads,” local historian Blanca Pineda tells EFE in El Paraiso, one of the neighborhoods making up Bogota’s 19th locality.

The daughter of early settlers in the area, Pineda, 68, has devoted the past half-century to the mission of recounting the origins of Ciudad Bolivar.

“Memory is the mother of the arts,” she says, explaining the idea behind the Women, Land and Memory collective’s use of crafts in pursuit of catharsis to overcome the wounds left by Colombia’s decades of armed conflict.

One example of this “artistic therapy” is a box covered with illustrations of a childhood marked by abuse accompanied by the words “rights are created in the embryo of truth and memory.”

“This was a territory of much violence. From here they took the boys who turned into false positives,” Pineda says, referring to the thousands of civilians executed and then falsely presented as rebels killed in combat by soldiers seeking promotion, bonuses or extra leave.

“Also there were many contradictions: when the National Ombud’s Office came, the mothers asked them to let their sons work as paramilitaries, because if not, what would they live on?,” she says.

Pineda was personally affected by the conflict, being forced to flee to Chile for several years after denouncing 604 crimes against humanity.

Ciudad Bolivar was among the Bogota localities that received the highest number of people displaced by fighting among the security forces, leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries,” according to Dana Sepulveda, an official with the municipal art institute, Idartes.

Now, Ciudad Bolivar has emerged as a cultural melting pot that is increasingly attractive to domestic and international tourists, a development aided in 2018 by the opening of a cable car system making hill-top neighborhoods more accessible. EFE mav/dr

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