(Re)Birth

Catalina Martin-Chico, France

For half a century, FARC guerrilla warfare in Colombia has left 260,000 people dead, 7 million displaced and 80,000 missing. It officially ended in late 2016 with the signing of a peace agreement between the Marxist guerrillas and the Colombian government. Then some 7,000 FARC fighters joined 26 transition camps throughout the country while waiting to resume civilian life.

My first time in Colombia was in June 2017. History was happening : the end of South America‘s largest guerrilla war seemed to be marking a turning point. The camps were camouflaged under the trees and the ex-fighters were still living in guerrilla conditions. In 2018, when I returned, the camps looked like villages with a string of perfectly identical small houses lining the jungle paths. Gradually the ex-FARC are re-adapting to economic and social life. Everyone are reconnecting with families they left behind when they joined the war. The arrival of many babies, strictly forbidden by FARC regulations, symbolizes this new peace. During the war, any pregnancy had to be terminated and if a child was born, it had to be abandoned at birth. For three years I documented this baby boom, forging intimate relationships with these former fighters, allowing me to tell the story of this post-conflict from their perspective.

By 2018, 69% of ex-fighters have left the camps, settling in cities or returning to their families‘ land. Each month, they receive a government allowance to begin their civilian life. Many of them return to farming the land – the very same life of their parents and those who they fought for during so many years.

When I returned in 2019, i could witness that hope has given way to disappointment. On one side, the economic reconversion seems an unreachable « el Dorado », on the other, fear for their safety is a real concern as 185 former combatants have been murdered since the peace.

Three and a half years after the peace signature, Colombia is entering a new cycle of violence.

Discover more: Shortlist 2020