Photographer's Note

Villa de Leyva - Viva Colombia !

VivaColombia is the name of a low-cost airline in Colombia (one that makes many of its passengers not entirely happy; I often heard of severe delays and cancellations of flights) but the title of my picture does not at all refer to this airline.

Two days ago the longest-lasting violent conflict in South America has officially come to an end. After 4 years of negotiating the Colombian government and the FARC, the largest guerrilla group in the country, have come to a final peace agreement.
So time for a wishful and encouraging title, I thought and one that also matches the feeling I had during my journey.

This peace agreement is the beginning of a still long way. But it is quite a hopeful beginning.
The Colombian population will approve or disapprove the accord in a plebiscite on October, 2nd. Perhaps a strange idea that the people might reject a peace agreement. But one must take into account the fact that many Colombians would want punishment for the FARC.

On the other hand more people have been killed by Colombia’s security forces and pro-government paramilitary groups …

The armed conflict lasted 52 years. The greater part of the population has not known another era. It was a time when many lived in constant fear. Over 220.000 Colombians have been killed. More than 80 % of them were non-combatants.
About 6 to 7 million have fled. Tens of thousands have been missing for years. Most likely they’re also dead but their bodies haven’t been found.

The challenge is very big. Proclaiming peace has happened. Now it will be learning to live together peacefully. But what about the other guerrilla groups that are still active? And the former death squads? There’s still the major problem of the unequal distribution of agricultural land. And the persistent problem that returned in just about every conversation with a Colombian person: the widespread corruption at almost every level in society.

But nobody can deny that already for several years there’s a new wind blowing through Colombia.
Most places in the country can be safely visited by tourists (and these tourists are clearly arriving in large numbers) but more importantly, safety has returned for most residents, for some of them for the first time in their life.
Surely the most important step towards peace has now been taken. At present we can - with a certain sense of optimism - wish all success to the parties involved and especially to the Colombian people.
Viva Colombia !

PS: The picture is taken on Plaza Mayor in Villa de Leyva, a small town at a four-hour drive north of Bogotá.
I had thought to post already more pictures but after a journey, it’s always very busy at work.

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Additional Photos by Paul VDV (PaulVDV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5077 W: 17 N: 12171] (49032)
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