Dejo aquí el texto que leí hoy como conferencista invitada en el curso Topics in Human Rights que dicta la profesora Amy Weismann de la Universidad de Iowa.
Leer versión en Español
Extraordinary facts through simple things
I couldn't imagine that at that very moment, when the old plane landed, my life was going to change forever. We had landed in the middle of the jungle, in Inírida, the capital of the Department of Guainía, on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. That year, 1996, the Colombian state had started a process related to the regulation of broadcasting services. This new legal framework recognized Community Radio as a public arena for democracy building. Our mission, as a part of the Ministry of Culture, was to provide tools to community groups so that they could create and develop spaces to achieve citizen participation and empowerment. Guillermo picked us up and immediately took us to the school which operates the community radio station, Custodia Estéreo, which covers the municipality of Inírida.
|Foto: Carlos Eduardo Álvarez Chalarca|
On the road, we were greeted by something really impressive, an enormous snake that was actually standing up trying to cross the road. This kind of snake is called Talla X because their size is “extra large” and they are considered extremely dangerous. I was terrified to see it, but it was much more surprising to realize that Guillermo did not seem to notice the snake. A few days later, I understood how relative one’s sense of priorities can be when living in a very complex context. In this region of thick jungles, the beauty of the tropical rain forest coexists with the great challenges of Colombia’s contemporary history. The region has been impacted by the lethal effects of drug trafficking, the presence of illegal armed groups, the marginalization of Indigenous groups, the illegal exploitation of gold, the ongoing movement of black markets and contraband, and the degradation of the environment. Under these circumstances, how could it be expected that Guillermo would be startled by a snake? I understood that Guillermo didn't need big events to be surprised, in fact, he had the gift of recognizing extraordinary facts through simple things.
|Foto: Carlos Eduardo Álvarez Chalarca|
We arrived at the school and Jeanine, who was my boss at the time, started the workshop talking about community radio. She explained how the school's new radio station could become an opportunity for young people to express themselves and to be taken into account by the rest of the community. Guillermo and his students knew it very well. Although expression can seem to be a simple thing, he understood that, in fact, in that context, it was an extraordinary fact. The kids began to talk and discuss, and within hours they were strongly arguing their ideas. Four days later, they had produced their own radio programs about their own concerns. They talked about theirs dreams; they told us that they didn't want to live their lives as coca pickers or raspachines, as there are called in Colombia. They told us they didn't want to be part of a stupid armed conflict which had only left death, pain and destruction. They said in their radio programs that they just wanted to study, have good jobs, love somebody, be happy. They were not asking for extraordinary facts, they were asking for simple things – that in Iníridas's context – seemed impossible.
|Foto: Donaldo Gamez|
When the workshop ended the students were very proud that their programs would be heard by all the people in Inírida. They were aware of the power involved in saying things in the public sphere, especially in a place where the public sphere was minuscule. They knew they were empowered in their ability of influence regarding matters of collective interest. But they also knew that if they wanted to be heard, they had to produce quality programs, and this involved developing their skills to tell stories. They would have to study and make better use of their school. Their teacher, Guillermo Pérez, knew it very well, so he had set up the radio station in the school. We returned to Bogotá and I understood that a new path had appeared to me. A new path that would lead me to work, to this day, linking communication, citizenship and rights.