Fierce

In Colombia, Women Are Cleaning Up The Remnants Of Its Bloody War

In Colombia, women were directly impacted by the more than half a century-long bloody war between the military and the guerrilla rebel group, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo (FARC). Their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers were killed. They were often subject to sexual violence, including rape and forced abortions. Today, three years after a peace pact was made between both armies, the women are now cleaning up the conflict’s deadly remnants.

In war zones throughout the South American country there are leftover explosives. Guerrillas planted landmines in towns, by schools and homes, as well as fincas years ago, prepared to ambush their enemies when they needed to. While the land is no longer occupied, many still fear walking through affected areas, knowing the risk they take stepping on a mine and detonating a bomb that could take off their leg.

Humanity & Inclusion (HI), an internationally funded humanitarian aid organization, is working to remove these mines — and it’s largely powered by women. In fact, 40 percent of the group is women and some, like Erika Romero, also lead teams.

“In the armed conflict, the mines were the most effective mechanism to do damage. Mines don’t discriminate,” Romero, HI’s base manager in Caquetá, told Teen Vogue. “Mines aren’t going to just target people in the military. The mines are going to take down civilians, the most vulnerable population. They’ve taken down children, animals, mothers, farmers.”

From 1990 to 2017, more than 11,000 people were killed or injured by mines and explosive, like grenades, mortars or bombs, that remained after the war.

This makes the women’s work essential. Before they started, 31 of 32 of Colombia’s departments were sullied with mines. That’s down by three. It might not seem like a lot, but the work is dangerous, making it meticulous and time-consuming.

Still, it’s labor that excites Marifer Culman Ortiz. The 19-year-old wakes up each morning, puts on her shatter-proof mask and anti-explosive gear, and begins her day in the minefield, moving away scrubs in the jungle and hovering her metal detector over the ground until she hears a long beep.

“It’s a very beautiful kind of work,” Culman Ortiz told the magazine. “That is, you have to go out to these areas and free them from many dangers like mines. Then people can pass through these pathways without fear that they’re going to step on the ground and lose their leg.”

Without women, this crucial work couldn’t get done. In the rural communities largely impacted by the war, there’s still a distrust of outsiders. This complicates the work of deminers, who often count on locals to identify areas where mines might have been planted. Those from the area are more comfortable speaking with familiar faces, who tend to be young women eager to rebuild their communities.

“Families are not going to trust people they practically don’t know and give this information because they could say ‘No, it could put my family at risk,’” Andrea Trujillo Ramirez, one of the women who works with the organization in the community she grew up in, said. “When we [women] go there, they almost always give us the information because they aren’t scared of us.”

Trujillo Ramirez was raised in a farmhouse near an encampment-turned-demining locale. Her childhood was plagued by war. She remembers hiding in bathrooms and under beds to protect herself from bullets as well as her mother pulling her out of school so she wouldn’t be hit during an unexpected, but common, shoot-out. She knows the pain of losing an uncle to a land mine and a brother, a member of FARC, to a clash with the military.

“The importance of this work is that I don’t want my family to have this experience of pain that I have had to live,” Trujillo Ramirez, who has a 7-year-old daughter, said.

While the Colombian government and the rebel group signed a peace pact in 2016, many fear that new conflict may soon arise. The government, which promised reparations for victims, reintegration of former combatants into society and developing the country’s destitute and rural areas, haven’t carried their vows through. Most recently, Colombian President Ivan Duque, who was elected last year, has questioned the accords altogether.

Former FARC rebels, upset by the unfulfilled pledges, have returned to war zone areas, carrying guns and sparking fear into many community members who are familiar with what a war-torn Colombia looks like.

This puts the women’s work at risk. They now face being at the center of violence themselves for attempting to detonate the remnants of yesterday’s brutality — a danger that could potentially put an end to their demining efforts.

“There would not be guarantees that we wouldn’t be forced out,” Romero said. “We could be at risk for the work we do with the communities so we would have to stop.”

For now, the women continue cleaning and hoping for a safer time ahead.

Read: This Queer Colombian Muralist Is Changing The World One Wall At A Time

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There’s A Group In Colombia Throwing Virtual House Parties With Amazing DJ’s And Supporting Vulnerable Communities In The Process

Things That Matter

There’s A Group In Colombia Throwing Virtual House Parties With Amazing DJ’s And Supporting Vulnerable Communities In The Process

DonaEnCasa / Instagram

With the pandemic forcing millions of us into lockdown and self-isolation, we’ve had to get pretty creative when it comes to socializing. One consequence of the lockdown has been the total shutdown of bars and clubs.

But let’s be real: the desire to perrear hasn’t gone anywhere.

So that’s where digital dance parties come to the rescue. And one group is creating super fun virtual parties with serious DJs spinning everything from EDM to reggaetón, while also supporting at-risk communities.

Dona En Casa is throwing virtual dance parties and supporting local communities with every peso they raise.

The Coronavirus pandemic may have spurred the group into action, but Dona En Casa is working on solving issues that existed long before Covid-19 threatened communities around the world.

Poverty, homelessness, lack of medical care and education – these issues all existed long before the virus hit but imagine how much worse they have become for impoverished communities in Latin America… Things have only gotten worse.

So, Dona En Casa decided to step up and try and do something about it while creating a platform for others to give back and have fun doing so – all from the safety and comfort of their own home. The group is also creating a fun space for people to escape the daily reminder of self-isolation and quarantine with lineups featuring amazing DJs.

Dona En Casa has helped frontline medical workers and has plans to help even more organizations – with your support.

Credit: donaencasa / Instagram

The group started off raising money for families in need of food assistance – and so far, the Dona En Casa and its partygoers have helped feed 100 families. But the group has also helped raise money to buy face masks and PPE for healthcare workers stationed in remote parts of Colombia that don’t have easy access to necessary equipment.

In an interview with Felipe Galvis, a founder of Done En Casa, he said the group is also looking to expand its giving programs by partnering with other organizations – including a dog shelter and a sanctuary for monkeys trafficked in the wildlife trade.

OK – but a digital dance party? What does that even look like…?

Credit: donaencasa / Instagram

Trust me, I had this question, too. But it actually sounds amazing! I mean basically you get to party from the comfort of your home, get dressed up or stay as dressed down as you want, make your own favorite beverage, and hang out with tons of other like-minded people.

The party takes place on Zoom and typically goes for two hours – but Galvis noted that their first party stretched on for four hours because people were having such a good time.

And this isn’t like something you’ll just stream while doing something on the side: Galvis said that at least 70% of people are really active and engaged – there’s tons of chatting, dance challenges, games, and even private chatting going. Can we expect a Done En Casa wedding some day?

Galvis pointed out that the last thing he expected to do in a quarantine was meet new people, but thanks to these parties that’s exactly what’s happened. Together, they’re building a community and in the process supporting vulnerable groups and helping out the entertainment industry and DJs along the way.

Mitú is joining Dona En Casa for two digital fiestas that will benefit TECHO – a major NGO across Latin America.

Credit: us.techo.org

This Friday and Saturday (May 22/23), Mitú is joining Dona En Casa for two crazy fiestas that will take place to benefit TECHO – a Latin American organization that provides support to communities in need.

TECHO is an organization that Dona En Casa co-founder Felipe Galvis holds close to his heart. As a former volunteer, he has seen the impact the organization makes. They provide food assistance, medical aide, supplemental education such as English classes, and they help small businesses with microcredits and coaching. The organization also constructs emergency housing for families who need them most.

You can join in on the parties with a donation that will 100% benefit the organization. The group is asking for a $9 USD donation – since with $9 USD they can feed a family for 10 days. And with your $9 donation you get access to both parties on Friday and Saturday.

Colombia has had a pretty strict response to the Coronavirus pandemic leaving many people with increased anxiety and loneliness.

Credit: donaencasa / Instagram

As soon as it became clear that Coronavirus was spreading across Latin America, Colombia sealed off its borders – including banning its own citizens from returning to Colombia. In fact, the country has been home to some of the strictest measures against the pandemic in Latin America. While this has had a positive effect at combating the outbreak, it’s also led to increased anxiety and loneliness among those who aren’t even allowed to leave their homes to visit family.

The Dona En Casa initiative is a win-win situation that helps people in need while also letting others dance and hang out in a socially distanced digital platform. If you’re interested in signing up for the event, check it out here.

Colombia Is Calling Your Name But How Much Do You Actually Know About This Incredible South American Country?

Culture

Colombia Is Calling Your Name But How Much Do You Actually Know About This Incredible South American Country?

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Colombia has been a rising travel destination for several years now as more and more people realize it has so much to offer. From bustling cities full of life to snow-capped mountains and unrivaled jungle rainforests, Colombia is truly a destination worth exploring.

And before the Coronavirus pandemic halted the breaks on the travel industry, Colombia was quickly becoming a major appeal for travelers from all over the world. Just 10 years ago, Colombia received around 900,000 foreign visitors – last year that number stood at nearly 3 million!

Now, as many of us dream about our next vacation (which is likely months if not more than a year away…), we want to revisit some of our favorite travel hotspots and test your knowledge on South America’s top destinations.

The country has a bad rap – but safety has improved so much.

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Unfortunately, it appears that not everyone knows that Colombia is well and truly back on the map, and that for the most part it is a safe destination for visitors to South America.

The drug cartels, still very much present, tend to keep their violence off the streets and a truce between FARC and the government has largely been held in place. Still, you may hear stories and sure there are parts of the country you probably shouldn’t visit, but Colombia has overwhelmingly improved its security. Anthony Bourdain summed it up pretty perfectly:

“If you want to find bad people in Colombia, you can surely find them, as you could in New York or Los Angeles. But nowhere have my crew and I been treated better or with more kindness and generosity. I’d bring my family on vacation there in a heartbeat. And hope to soon. As I said before: Colombians are proud. Let them show you what they are proud of.”

Colombians sure love their fiestas – the country is home to four of the world’s largest parties.

Credit: Bret Silverwood / Flickr

From the biggest salsa festival, theatre festival, outdoor horse parade to a flower parade, Colombia knows how to throw massive parties. Many of these events are scheduled well in advance so you can start looking for dates in 2021 and plan your trip accordingly!

Colombia is a major music-producing country – Maluma baby!

Credit: maluma / Instagram

Colombia has given us some pretty awesome people: hip-shaking Shakira, author Gabriel Garcia Marquez (who penned Love in the Time of Cholera) and actor John Leguizamo (of Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet fame – Google him, you’ll know) all call the country home.

Not to mention Juanes, Maluma, J Balvin, Karol G and so many others.

Colombia is the only country in South America that has coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Credit: Bret Silverwood / Flickr

Ok, so the Pacific side isn’t all that much of a tourist destination yet – it lacks the sandy beaches known to the Caribbean side. But still, you get the best of both worlds with two different coastlines to choose from.

There are about 80 different regional languages spoken across Colombia.

Credit: Bret Silverwood / Flickr

Spanish, like most of South America, is the official language of Colombia and you’ll get by in most of the country with it. But keep in mind if in smaller villages that it’s more than likely you’ll encounter Indigenous languages – many of which are in danger of extinction.

Aguardiente is the national drink.

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You’ll either love it or hate it but either way you’ll end up drinking tons of it. It’s cheap and mixes pretty well.

Capital Bogota has one of the biggest cycle path networks in the world.

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Bogota’s bike network is the largest network in the America’s and it actually carries more than 600,000 riders each and every day. That’s some serious ridership and is kind of surprising considering the city sits at an altitude of nearly 3,000 meters (or more than 8,000 feet).

Colombia is one of the most mega-diverse countries in the world.

Credit: National Geographic

Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, after only Brazil which is 10 times its size, and one of only 17 “megadiverse” countries. It has the highest amount of species by area in the world, including more species of bird than all of Europe and North America combined.

Plastic surgery really is a thing.

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Having grown up in a society where butt implants were a thing the Kadarshians constantly denied, it was fascinating to see so many people openly displaying their ‘physical enhancements.’

According to some locals, the plastic surgery crazy may be thanks to the drug cartels – who allegedly like women to look a certain way. But one thing’s clear – plastic surgery is big business in Colombia with some tour companies actually changing their business model to do ‘surgery tourism’ from the U.S.!