Displacement happens in silence after the scream. Deep-rooted, settled inhabitants must flee their land, leaving behind crops, animals and home. They are expelled by a centrifuge force that no longer wants them and repels them. They arrive in cities or new territories where there is nothing for them and no place for them. They search and search, and in the end some find. Their refuge is a traffic light, a temporary shelter, a hillside invasion. Others face continental or maritime limits. To stay, to return or to leave: that is their question. Few, very few, make it home to their original land, to their fountain of happiness.
Forced displacement in Colombia has been one of the most worrying and most direct social and cultural consequences of the armed conflict for over four decades. It is mainly a result of narcotics trade, social injustice and unjust land ownership. For these displaced people, Human rights of displaced persons are constantly violated in various ways by illegal armed groups. Authorities have historically neglected to provide the help which is necessary in the process of adaptation to new conditions and have also neglected to generate strategies for their return. Nor has society has spoken out, despite the problem having existed for so long. Nonetheless, a sense of protection for these people is developing, through new 'return' politics and social movements: the legal and moral need to act in relation with what conflict has left behind.
Juan Manuel Santos, President of the Republic of Colombia, insists that it is a priority for the government that families who were displaced by violence return to their land. For this reason, the Ley de Víctimas y Restitución de Tierras (or Victims and Land Restitution Law) was approved by the Congress of the Republic and mechanisms of implementation are currently being discussed. "One thing about this policy which is very important for the government and for myself: to give the opportunity to the families which have been displaced by violence for so long to go back to their lands, to go back to their villages, to go back to their plots, to the land that belongs to them. This, for me, is a priority." Likewise, placing responsibility for those who are displaced on the state, the Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons maintains open dialogue with the government of Colombia and other countries with the aim of improving protection of this particularly vulnerable group. "With the same aim, he has also continued to take initiative towards integrating human rights of internally displaced persons within the United Nations and towards defending those rights on a global level."
The honest standpoint of the government in terms of creating ties, in terms of reconstruction and in terms of repairing wounds which the conflict left behind in the affected social groups reflect the feelings of most Colombians who want to promote change. Political action such as issuing laws and decrees, economic support visible through investment in infrastructure and livelihood and housing projects can lead to real tangible changes, as can the promotion of demonstrations of social responsibility by charities and NGOs.
In the same way, artistic and cultural expression, be it photography or other contemporary practice, can make a difference. Art and aesthetics have the capacity to generate transformations in emotions by activating conscience, building protests, bearing witness to moments, producing corporal sensations and perceiving contrasts which human action generates in individuals, territory and landscape. Photography, for instance, bears testimony to the present which we are living, and is witness to problems of violence, inequality and damage to our environment. Photography is also a tool for proposing solutions, expressing opinions and imagining new realities. It is the reflection of the individual photographer who seeks to become collective conscience.
This is how 'Santa Rita, tierra de luz' came to be: an urban, artistic and landscape intervention, recorded photographically. This intervention reflected on the problem of forced displacement and inquired about its causes and its effects while also presenting solutions such as returning. The intervention 'Santa Rita, tierra de luz' studied the socio-spatial consequences of the arrival (or new beginning) through the symbolic act of repair in a village in ruins which had been abandoned and lifeless for many years. The project was presented to the 42nd Salón Nacional de Artistas (National exhibition of artists) as a Process Artist Entry, at the Colombian Ministry of Culture on the 22th of November 2010.
('Pueblo Fantasma', 'Mother, Dance and Calf' and 'Madre hay una sola' from the series INVIS!BLES)