Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

The Affective State and Precarious Citizenship: Conflict, Historical Memory, and Forgiveness in Bojayá, Colombia

Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

The Affective State and Precarious Citizenship: Conflict, Historical Memory, and Forgiveness in Bojayá, Colombia

Article excerpt


We were late for the meeting. They were waiting for us were in the parish house in Bellavista Nueva (New Bellavista) and not in Bellavista Viejo (Old Bellavista), where the 2 May massacre took place, 14 years ago. As we entered, a leader of the Victim's Committee of the Second of May (CVDM) was speaking. He had accompanied us two weeks ago in Cali at an event at the Center for Afro-Diaspora Studies, and we owed it to him that we were able to come to Black Christ of Bojayá meeting.

At the meeting, there were more or less 50 representatives from all the communities: Bellavista, Pogue, Tanguí, Puertoconto, Tadó, among others. The CVDM leader spoke about the difficulty of taking the Black Christ out of Havana, about the number of procedures and amount of paperwork needed to do so, about the fact that the Christ's two-meter-long arms had to be mutilated in order to get him into a plane. Everyone listened carefully. The Black Christ was a gesture of repentance delivered by the FARC to the town of Bojayá, to redeem their guilt after having caused an explosion in the San Pablo Apóstol Church. Jesús Santrich and Iván Márquez, two of the ex-commanders of this guerrilla that led the signing of the two peace agreements had hired a sculptor friend in Cuba to sculpt the statue of the Christ. It was, for them, a "Revolutionary Christ." The community was gathered here in order to decide what to do with the over two-meter-tall plaster statue, which was, right now, being polished in a near-by community.

The first woman to speak, after giving people the floor, was someone well known. DC, as they called her, is a close neighbor of the Bellaluz neighborhood and well-known singer of songs of praise. In her intervention, she proposed a number of important points. The first was that the community saw the Christ as something imposed by the FARC. How is it possible that the FARC did not even ask them whether they would accept the Christ before beginning to make it? How come they were not asked whether they felt comfortable with this mechanism of "symbolic reparation," as the guerrilla referred to it? Why a Christ, the object of their faith? In her second point, DC highlighted the original Christ of the church of Bellavista: mutilated, it survived the massacre and maybe it is precisely for this reason that it enjoys special devotion. Bellavista already had its Christ and it didn't need another one. It was fine if another community wanted the Christ but, for DC, Bellavista didn't need it, or at least this had been discussed in previous meeting among neighbors. The mutilated Christ was their Christ, precisely because it was mutilated - as they were - by the violence perpetrated by the FARC.

The next to speak was a man from Pogue, NA. His position was completely different to the woman who had just spoken. He spoke of forgiveness and peace and of the importance of accepting the Christ as a symbol that would help in the signing of the Havana peace agreements. He insisted that the Christ should stay in Bellavista, as the "epicenter" of the massacre. The Christ, despite being an outsider, could speak of the greatness of the Bojayá community, its capacity for forgiveness, its nobility. Many glances of contempt were shot his way. His reading of the situation was not well received.

Two women from Bellavista followed his intervention. The first referred to the imposition and violence of the gesture. It was an imposition that was telling them how to forgive, with what to forgive, and which gifts to accept. It was also offensive that the gesture should include an object of faith. It was a joke, a mockery. The second woman spoke of the pain that it would cause to see the FARC's Christ in the place in which the gas cylinder had exploded. She mentioned the splinters in her left leg, the cramps that kept her awake at night, the injustice of the gesture. And if that were not enough, she said that here it was the victimizers, and not the community, that were deciding how to compensate them. …

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