Police guard the scene of a confrontation with criminals in Sinaloa. JORGE CARBALLO

Life is one and it is too short to invest it in the tragedy of a war and yet millions of human beings have been sacrificed for its vileness. In Colombia, around 800,000 people died and more than 120,000 souls disappeared during a conflict that lasted half a century between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).

According to a report recently published by the Truth Commission of that country, a million individuals who suffered forced displacement or exile for the same reason would have to be added to these numbers.

After former President Juan Manuel Santos and the guerrilla leaders signed the peace accords in November 2016, Colombian memory looked at itself in a mirror weighed down by countless scars.

In those documents, both parties promised to build three sites – one in Havana, another in New York and a third in Colombia – to signify the end of such a bloody confrontation.

The extraordinary international artist Doris Salcedo was commissioned for the work that would be located behind the government palace, in the center of Bogotá. Two years later, Fragmentos was inaugurated, a space dedicated to dialogue between the different narratives of the Colombian war and of so many other wars that have left the soul broken, due to their similarity, in other Latin American countries.

Salcedo explains that this work is the opposite of a monument, it is a criticism carried out, from art, against the epic of death, suffering and violence. An anti-monument to denounce the power of weapons and those who, for more than five decades, used them to subdue the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocents.

Among the commitments for peace, the members of the FARC undertook to give up all their weapons. For this reason, 37 tons of rifles, pistols and machine guns were piled up to be melted down in special furnaces. Then, with that material, 1,300 metal plates were made.

Previously, the molds where the steel was poured were hammered by a score of sexually enslaved women. Most were kidnapped as teenagers by warlords. If they tried to escape they risked being accused of betraying the cause of the revolution.

Doris Salcedo affirms that she was unable to involve in this collective work the women who also suffered abuse and violence at the hands of the military and paramilitaries participating in the conflict. This was so because, unlike the FARC prisoners, the risk of retaliation against these other victims was not averted by signing the agreements.

With the steel plates wounded by the blows of those former slaves, an 800-square-meter apartment was built that today can be visited in an old Casa del Nariño, a 19th-century building located behind the presidential residence.

With this work Salcedo defies power because the weapons that were aimed and shot at so many heads are today the place that people step on with ease while visiting Fragmentos. Before the muzzle of the rifle looked from above, now the human eyes are directed towards the place where the transfigured weapons are located.

This piece of art is an emblem of peace achieved. Each element symbolized there conjures up the repetition of pain and brings dignity to the suffering that so many suffered during the years of war. It is a place to string together the memory of those who were murdered, those who disappeared and those who suffered the consequences of forced migration.

When visiting Salcedo’s work, it is difficult to dissociate the arguments exposed in Fragmentos from other Latin American experiences that have also caused devastation. In Mexico, for example, the number of disappearances caused by violence is still counted at more than 100,000. And although here there is no precise list of displaced persons, nor a reliable calculation on the true number of dead persons, victims of the war, it is evident that, in a much shorter period compared to the Colombian one, here the weapons They have wreaked much worse havoc.

In Mexico, the scars of violence are also terrible and the mourning that is experienced in most regions is great. But our country still does not have an anti-memorial where a society destroyed by 15 years of scourge can be reinvented.

Indeed, we are still a long way from the possibility of reaching a peace agreement because there is not yet enough imagination to conceive of dialogue between organizations more lethal than the Colombian ones, which have not had the revolution as their explicit claim since the The main cement that supposedly brings them together is the criminal business.

No matter how much criticism the former Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Juan Manuel Santos, received when he promoted a rapprochement between his government and the FARC leaders, this is nothing like the judgment that could be imposed inside and outside of Mexico. on the government if it dared to start a negotiation to demobilize and disarm criminal companies.

And yet, neither ideology nor the lack of it should be a relevant point when undertaking a public approach like the one suggested here. The purpose, in any case, would be to de-escalate the dynamics of violence in such a way that anyone who wanted to get out of the war could do so without paying fatal costs, either because the organization that controls his life can take revenge against the individual and his family, or because the government criminally proceeded against those who, by withdrawing, were left without any support from the criminal networks.

Today Mexico, like Colombia, is a fragmented country. But unlike that sister nation, the commitment to peace and reconciliation does not yet appear in our discourse, much less in political decisions, nor in the ethical vision of the governing elite.

The longer we delay in recognizing reality, the violence will multiply the inflationary path followed in Mexico since the beginning of this century. A wide exit door is required and guarantees of survival for those who lay down their arms. That would have to be the heart of the Mexican agreement of peace and reconciliation.

Richard Raphael


We wish to say thanks to the writer of this short article for this outstanding content