After 52 years of pitched conflict that claimed the lives of some 220,000 people (the majority civilians), displaced 7 million more, and saw families torn apart by thousands of kidnappings, Colombia’s historic transition to peace has stumbled, but remains on course.
As the peace deal is slowly implemented, around 6,300 former FARC guerrilla soldiers wait in 26 zonas veredales — transitional camps — across the country.
Didier, 29, joined the FARC 10 years ago. “To have this life, I’ve made sacrifices,” he said. "I'm very good at shooting."
Dejación de Armas — the laying down of arms — forms part of the agreement on the bilateral and definitive ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, and provides for the handing over of FARC weapons to the United Nations. The UN will then proceed to use this weaponry to construct monuments to peace in Colombia, Havana and New York City.
“The weapons aren’t being given up as much as no longer being used. The struggle is now political. Politics need to be learned; they can’t be invented.”
FARC members play volleyball in the entrance of the camp. After years — for many, decades — of pitched conflict, the realities of peace sit with an uneasy boredom, as soldiers wait out this transitional phase into civilian life.
More than 300 soldiers live within La Variante, and the FARC — adept at construction and building camps in inhospitable locations — have created order and infrastructure within the zone. From working showers, to tapped electricity cables, to livestock and libraries. Daily life is defined by scheduled shifts, classes and perimeter patrols, as the FARC frente attempt to retain some internal control in a process being determined far beyond their gates.
After 52 years of guerrilla warfare, peace has fuelled a baby boom. Female FARC fighters, previously obliged to use birth control (and in some instances, illegal or forced abortions) are building families.
Maria Jose Arteaga, 22, nurses her three month old daughter Brianna Mishell Tosao Muñoz. “I’d like to study gender equality issues. I want to raise my daughter so she grows up to be a good citizen.”
“Gender rights aren’t only for FARC members, but all Colombian men and women.”
La Variante is home to more than 300 former FARC soldiers. Some had served decades with the FARC, others had joined just 12 months before the peace deal was announced. Men, women and increasingly children wait in an uneasy boredom for their transition into civilian life. Some still wear their uniforms. Most — for now — still carry their guns.