Weaving agency, resistance and indigenous resilience to build territorial peace: From the Colombian Amazon to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Project: Research Project

Project Details


This research project involves three areas of knowledge of the Universidad del Rosario: the anthropology program, the Center for Peace and Conflict and the Faculty of Jurisprudence. It also articulates participatory action-research work in two very diverse regions of Colombia (the Colombian Caribbean and the Amazon), through an interdisciplinary, intercultural and intergenerational team. From the point of view of its articulation with the processes of human capital formation of academic programs of the University, the work team is composed of two professors (general coordinator and associate coordinator), a doctoral student and a young researcher. Likewise, this project has the leverage of a resource between 40% and 80% of external funding (U.S. government through the 1000K fund) and national indigenous organizations (CIT , AZICATCH and CRIMA ). This project participated in two national and two international calls, obtaining very good qualification, but without being financed.

The internal armed conflict (CIA) in Colombia has had a strong impact on indigenous peoples, who have been harmed by different forms of affectation and violation of their individual and collective rights. Likewise, their ancestral territories have been victims of the CIA as they are located in strategic areas for armed actors and traffickers of drugs, weapons and people. According to reports by Stavenhagen and Anaya , the latest special rapporteurs on the rights and guarantees of indigenous peoples in the United Nations system, the CIA has implicated Colombia's indigenous peoples in processes of forced displacement, intergenerational traumas, massacres, forced disappearances, confinement, forced recruitment of indigenous children and youth, practices of sexual violence against indigenous women and girls, and affecting their food sovereignty, sacred sites and traditional knowledge.

Since the promulgation of the Justice and Peace Law (975/2005), which established the norms for the reincorporation of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) into civilian life, the discussion on Transitional Justice processes began to take place for the first time in Colombia. This focused on the establishment of a special accusation model that included alternative sentences, mainly through reduced sentences. In addition, it included some measures on victims' rights, such as the creation of the National Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation (CNRR), and the Grupo de Memoria Histórica - now the Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica (CNMH) - however, despite the fact that more than 31,000 AUC combatants demobilized between 2003 and 2005 under international supervision, many paramilitary structures re-emerged as new armed groups, known as criminal gangs (BACRIM). These, along with the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces are currently present in 27 of Colombia's 32 departments, exacerbating violence and forced displacement in indigenous territories.
During the process of consolidation of transitional justice in Colombia, pressure from social movements, victims' organisations, feminists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) ended in the issuance of Auto 004 (2009), Auto 092 (2008) and Victims Decree Law 4633 of 2011. The first sought to recognize the differential impact of the CIA on indigenous peoples in order to protect the fundamental rights of displaced indigenous people or those at risk of being displaced. The second was to recognize the differential impact of the CIA on women, which included a clause on the particular risks and vulnerability of indigenous and Afro-Colombian women. The last one, dictated the measures of assistance, attention, integral reparation and restitution of territorial rights to the victims belonging to the indigenous peoples and communities. However, the 13 special programmes that emerged in response to these problems have not yet been protocolized and implemented. Moreover, despite the recent inclusion of the ethnic chapter in the agreements signed between the Government and the FARC in November 2016, tensions around the coordination mechanisms and routes for implementing the ethnic approach have been increasing.

Meanwhile, at the local level, indigenous territories continue to be disputed areas marked by power struggles between multiple legal and illegal actors. In this sense, in the framework of the implementation of agreements and the peacebuilding process, the challenges to achieve territorial peace are multiple and complex. Moreover, these threats are not only the result of new territorial, political and economic disputes, but also the result of a lack of political will. in which indigenous peoples have been historically immersed.
Two Amazonian communities: La Chorrera and Araracuara
Practices of violence against indigenous communities have been present in the Amazon region long before the "official" beginning of the war in Colombia. Their origin goes back to the first waves of colonization and public policies that considered the Amazon as "wasteland" and the indigenous as "savage" peoples who should be civilized. This is particularly true in the case of the two Amazonian communities included in this project: La Chorrera and Araracuara. From the beginning of the 20th century, La Chorrera became the epicenter of the rubber regime through the installation of the Peruvian Amazon Rubber Company (PARC), also known as Casa Arana. Under the direction of Julio César Arana, PARC imposed physical and cultural extermination regimes on local indigenous groups. Systematic abuses - including multiple forms of torture, exploitation and murder - led to the extermination of entire communities and were accompanied by the introduction of forms of sexual slavery, forced concubinage and exploitation of children and youth. Although these practices were publicly denounced and condemned, indigenous labor exploitation and extermination continued in the region for most of the 20th century through threats, bribes, and an inherited system of debt.

For their part, some of the indigenous peoples who managed to escape the rubber regime settled in Araracuara, located on the slopes of the Caquetá River. After some indigenous families arrived in Araracuara and cleared the territory, in 1939 a penal and agricultural colony was established there by order of the national government. The penal colony remained in the territory until 1971, generating violent migratory processes and deforestation, at the same time as introducing the ideas of land ownership, monoculture, wage labor and monetary economy within the communities. Additionally, inmates and prison officials began to harass and persecute indigenous women, leading to ongoing clashes with members of local communities.

Beginning in the 1980s, the region was deeply marked by the CIA. The FARC guerrilla established the 63rd front there, limiting the mobility of indigenous inhabitants and turning their communities into places of confinement. To counter these subversive groups, the government decided to create two military bases in La Chorrera and Araracuara. In this way, the communities found themselves regularly caught in the crossfire. In addition, the territory was affected by the growing entry of illegal economic actors who wanted to take advantage of the cocalero bonanza and, more recently, mining markets. Likewise, the presence of drug traffickers and companies began to offer job opportunities to many indigenous men and women in the region, but the levels of violence increased considerably. The situation led to the criminalization of communities, which were often stigmatized as collaborators of illegal armed groups. In the late 1990s, the presence of armed actors in the Amazon intensified with the agreement between President Pastrana and the FARC in the framework of the creation of the "détente zone".

In this context of continuous violence and economic exploitation, indigenous communities led processes of creation and consolidation of local indigenous organizations, currently federated in the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (OPIAC). In 1985, the Consejo Regional Indígena del Medio Amazonas (CRIMA) was established in Araracuara. Meanwhile, the indigenous people of La Chorrera were fighting for the recovery of their territory, then legally owned by the Caja Agraria, which had been bought by Julio César Arana. Finally, in 1993 AZICATH was founded, the current indigenous organization of La Chorrera. Thus, indigenous organizations and traditional authorities have obtained several significant victories in terms of the recovery of their culture and territory. However, they are not always prepared to face the different threats that still exist to territorial management and peace-building processes. One of the most acute problems is the forced recruitment and involvement of indigenous women and youth.
Currently, despite the recent peace agreement, respect for their rights and sovereignty as communities is still threatened by many factors: the emergence of neo-paramilitary groups, the continued activity of guerrilla dissidents who did not demobilize, and the reorganization of power structures that involve indigenous women and youth.


Peacebuilding, post-agreement, territorial peace; indigenous women; indigenous youth; multi-situated political advocacy; local leadership.

Commitments / Obligations

The project involves three sets of products.
The first will reflect, in line with the project's objectives, on IPs' peacebuilding, with an ethnic and gender focus, and the scope of advocacy at local and national levels. This includes:
-One (1) academic article in an indexed journal on peacebuilding of indigenous women and youth in the post-agreement.
- One (1) academic article in an indexed journal on the risks associated with post-agreement at the local level from an intersectional and intergenerational perspective based on the experiences of indigenous women and youth.
The second set of products is associated with the visibility, dissemination and social appropriation of knowledge in relation to the results of the project. In this way, the communities will have inputs for participation and advocacy at the local and national levels with the institutions through:
-One (1) community human rights report (ICDH) from Chorrera and Araracuara.
-One (1) community human rights report (ICDH) of the SNSM (Arhuaco People).
The third set of products is directly related to the action-participative dimension of the research project. With the objective of creating and implementing strategies to strengthen political advocacy, they will be carried out:
-One (1) Political Incidence Project (PIP) of the Chorrera and Araracuara.
-One (1) Political Advocacy Project (PIP) of the SNSM (Arhuaco People).
The preparation of these texts will allow us to make interventions in various conferences and seminars, both in Colombia and abroad.
-Training of 1 doctoral student and 1 young researcher who articulate themselves to the project with the objective of collaborating in the research, in specific aspects such as the production of academic articles and the preparation of inputs and meetings to be held in the communities of the Amazon and SNSM.
-A doctoral thesis and advances of a master's thesis (among the programs of Law, Political Science and Anthropology) on topics related to the project.
-Participation of undergraduate students of the "peace building, gender and ethnicity" course in territorial research processes through the construction and implementation of workshops for graduates.
-Modules/workbooks built for territorial research.
-Two international missions in alliance with Wagner Center of NYU.
Training of 320 indigenous students in terms of empowerment, social appropriation and democratization of knowledge.
Effective start/end date8/27/1911/30/21

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education

Main Funding Source

  • Competitive Funds
  • Great Amount


  • Santa Marta


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