Port of Call
Healing a Fractured Nation: Carlos Gonzales and Revivir de los Campanos, Jul 27, 2018
The Peace Boat study tour visits buildings constructed by the residents of Revivir de los Campanos.
Armed conflict plagued Colombia for much of the last century. The decades-long quagmire cannot be attributed to any one origin, but rather ebbed and flowed as both internal and external forces fought for different visions of the nation's future amid the Cold War. The conditions proved to be the perfect storm for drug trafficking, which exacerbated the violence as the country became a battleground between cartels and other paramilitary groups. A historic peace agreement was signed in 2016, and though the country has made significant progress in recent years, much work remains to be done to heal the society.

Carlos Gonzales gives a lecture on the history of the Colombian conflict.
Peace-building in Colombia is the focus of much of the work of Carlos Gonzales, a political scientist and lawyer who joined Peace Boat for the first time as a guest educator onboard the 98th Global Voyage. Gonzales is also the Executive Director and a co-founder of La Paz Querida, an organization that has been helping to reconstruct the torn social fabric of Colombia since May of 2016. "The main idea is to work on the collective construction of a culture of peace, as opposed to a culture of violence," says Gonzales. Though the peace agreement was signed two years ago, peace will not be sustained unless new social frameworks are established to keep it in place. Gonzales predicts this process will take at least one generation, if not more. La Paz Querida, ("Our Wanted Peace"), is also part of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), an international network of civil society organizations that Peace Boat is also a member of.

Peace Boat staff and participants meet and have lunch with residents of Revivir de los Campanos.
When the Ocean Dream stopped in Colombia in the port of Cartagena on 22 July, a group of Peace Boat participants had the chance to visit Revivir de los Campanos, a living community for people internally displaced by the conflict. Nearly six million people were forcibly displaced from their communities due to the violence in Colombia. Many had no choice but to wander under highly desperate circumstances in search of refuge elsewhere, which they usually found in cities that increasingly grew crowded. Rehabilitation and reintegration efforts have been a major part of the peace agreement and subsequent peace-building efforts in the country, as internal displacement was such a defining feature of the conflict. Because this displacement has gone on for so long, many families no longer want to return to their former communities.

Peace Boat participants present residents of Revivir de los Campanos with soccer balls as gifts.
Though a number of families had begun living in the community beforehand, Revivir de los Campanos was officially recognized by the Colombian government in 2000, as part of a campaign to assist survivors in similar shelters spread throughout the country. Around 100 families from across the country have established their homes there, all in houses and centres constructed by the residents themselves, after receiving training in construction from the government. Roughly 800 children live in Revivir de los Campanos, most of whom were born there and have no memory of their "home" regions.

A Peace Boat participant presents 1000 paper cranes, a Japanese symbol for peace, to the residents of Revivir de los Campanos.
On the study tour, the Peace Boat participants were able to tour the community, and listen to testimonied by two survivors of the conflict who now live in Revivir de los Campanos, Omerly Vergara and Agripina Perema. In 2001, Vergara helped form a group called Mis Esfuerzos, ("My Efforts"), which aims to educate women and children on their rights through workshops and classes. Though the conflict is officially deemed to be over, Perema doesn't want to return "home", for fear that it is still unsafe for her to do so. She considers Revivir de los Campanos her home now, a sentiment she says she shares with most of the residents there. After the testimonies, a series of enthusiastic dance performances by the younger members of the community, and lunch, the Peace Boat study group had the chance to relax and play football with members of the community, before presenting them with gifts as tokens of their appreciation for the educational day.