Giving One’s Life, but Not the Land

The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó’s fight for land, as is the case for many peasant, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian communities, is historic and the most central aspect of their existence.

Today, the need to defend land is more important than ever. A consequence of the Peace Agreement between the former guerrilla group, FARC-EP, and the Colombian government has been a commodification of territories that, due to the armed conflict, were on the periphery of the market system. In the case of the Peace Community, this means defending land from mining companies that have come into the area to exploit the wealth of natural resources. There are several valid mining titles in the rural area of San José de Apartadó[1] and the Peace Community has denounced the constant efforts from mining companies to penetrate the region and their attempts to persuade the local population.[2]

The Peace Community highlights that defending the territory does not only mean taking care of the land, but defending life itself: “Giving one’s life but not the land.” The legitimate and legal fight to defend land is not to formalize titles but instead to show that land is a necessity for the peasantry. For the Community, land is a fundamental right; a human being needs land to construct their home, to carry out their life project and for those of future generations. Caring for the land is a key point for the Community and for that reason its members practice sustainable land management with soil conservation and environmental protections. This means protecting the biodiversity and planting crops that can guarantee a certain food sovereignty. Ultimately, land is necessary for survival and resistance in the rural context.

Within the Peace Community’s conception, collectivity is fundamental and the territory is precisely the collective patrimony of present and future generations. They vindicate a peasant-led agrarian reform in a territory with a painful history. The Peace Community has lost over 300 individuals since its creation;[3] it has suffered massacres and selective murders.[4] Hence, each piece of land has significant meaning because of the incidents that occurred on that land. Each plot has its collective memory, which the Peace Community continues to remember and cultivate to fight against oblivion and to find true and dignified peace. However, despite their daily fight, today, the panorama is discouraging. Jesús Emilio, a member of the Community’s Internal Council states: “It is possible that we will lose the fight against multinationals and the State. But at least we will provide humanity with the story of our struggle.”

Field Team, Urabá

[1]     Ministerio de Minas y Energía (2017): Catastro Minero Colombiano.

[2]     Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó: Aniversario en medio de virus mortales. 30 March 2020

[3]     Colombia Plural: ¿Por qué resiste la comunidad de paz de San José de Apartadó? 3 January 2017

[4]     Idem

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