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De forma oblicua: Representaciones de la violencia paramilitar en la Colombia del siglo XXI

Publication Date
Jan 01, 2021
eScholarship - University of California
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Colombia has endured one of the longest-running internal armed conflicts in the Western Hemisphere. For more than fifty years, government forces, guerrillas, paramilitaries, drug cartels, and criminal groups have subjected civilians to horrendous crimes. Disappearances, massacres, displacement, and kidnappings have been the reality of many Colombians, especially those who live in rural areas where the State’s presence is limited. As a society that has grown under these circumstances, Colombia’s cultural manifestations are not indifferent to this socio-political context. There is no writer, film director, or artist whose work has not touched at some point and in some way upon the topic of the conflict and the violence it involved. However, the nature of these approaches varies greatly. It fluctuates between explicit realism to symbolism, depending on the time and the type of violence represented. At the turn of the millennium, Colombia’s news was full of bloody images of war and death. Television and film productions swamped urban communities with stories of hitmen and drug lords, and literature was fascinated with criminals’ biographies. The immediate effect of this overexposure of images and narratives was urban society’s weariness of any representation of violence and, ultimately, its indifference. This fatigue condemned rural communities to disregard and oblivion. This dissertation examines how drama, literature, and film produced between 2000 and 2016 have unveiled right-wing paramilitary violence and portrayed the victims’ struggle for justice. Through the close analysis of novels, films, and plays, I prove that there is a tendency in these works to avoid graphic depiction of violence. Instead, they use literary devices, such as metaphors, personifications, choral narrations, child narrators, and others, to approach this subject. I suggest that this shift towards more implicit representations results from a conscious opposition to the normalization of violence. And it is part of an attempt not only to spotlight the victims, their voices, and their life stories, but also to reengage and evoke empathy within the urban communities. I have chosen this time frame because, during these years, Colombia experienced an upsurge of paramilitary violence and two peace processes. Between 2003 and 2006, Alvaro Uribe’s government signed the demobilization process with the AUC, the largest paramilitary organization at the time, followed by Juan Manuel Santos’ peace agreement with the FARC, the oldest Latin American guerrilla force. The cultural production surrounding paramilitarism grows exponentially during these years because of these historical and political factors. The literature, film, and theatre produced after 2016, the post-agreement period, obeys different dynamics and merits its own reflections.

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