Sunday, January 30, 2011

Colombia te quiero: me has cambiado

            Before we left for Colombia a very interesting man walked into our Dante classroom with a news-camera and tripod to record some of our pre-Colombia discourse. This man was Lawrence. He recorded us in silence, saying nothing, but recording everything from many angles, from many points of view. But he wasn't just recording, he was listening and seeing and absorbing. For many years Lawrence has been behind the camera, but it was strange to me that this cameraman never spoke; he only listened and recorded and by the time I had wondered if anyone ever asked him for his opinion or his point of view, or if anyone had ever recorded his story, his words, or his say Myrna asked him what he thought about the War on Drugs and Colombia, US involvement in Colombia and our trip to Colombia. I was so glad that she had done what I was anxious to do, but might not have had the courage to do: ask Lawrence to share his perspective on the world. I wont tell you what he said in this blog, but he shared with us what he has experience in a long career as a cameraman traveling the world to record events that he acknowledges are staged and edited to match the political agenda of the people who control the media. So his challenge to us was to be critical of everything we are shown, to train ourselves to be critical and to develop and exercise critically thinking minds.
            I am writing about Lawrence because the knowledge that he shared with us in the classroom was so intense and so intriguing and informed that I had wondered why no one had put him in front of a camera. Lawrence is an amazing intellectual and the challenge that he left us with matched the challenge that our Colombian professors and guides gave us early in our Colombian adventure: to be able to define Colombia and to see beyond the image of Colombia as a place of drugs and violence because Colombia is a safe place; in Colombia there is always conflict, but the conflict is not what defines Colombia. Colombia is defined by the people and their experiences and their response to the conflicts in their homes, communities, and country.
            I have been in California for about 24 hours now and I already regret leaving Colombia. It's not that I had to choice to stay or go, but I didn't want to leave Colombia and now that I have I want to go back. Colombia is an amazing place with amazing people. The course was focused on new histories and new challenges in Colombia in relationship to development, ecology, and women's issues. What was interesting is that on our last day in Colombia we visited the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá and as we were leaving the campus we saw a message on a building - the campus is covered in progressive and politically and socially conscious ("leftist") student art and poetry and graffiti, which I loved and wish SMC would allow - that read "Soy historiador(a) porque creo en la transformación social." I love these words because the people we met and our professors and guides and their organizations are all studying history so that they can understand and anticipate the causes of the social, economic, and political issues in Colombia today. We don't just study history in order not to make the same mistakes again, but to understand today and today's issues of ecology, development, and women etc. I want to be a historian because I believe in social transformation too!        
            Historians, Geographers, Social Scientists, Anthropologists, "leftists", revolutionaries study the past to understand what is wrong in the present and how we can make tomorrow better. It's a matter of developing a better world. Colombia te quiero y me has cambiado mucho. Gracias a la vida.

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