When people think about countries with lots of refugees, they usually don’t think about Colombia. But according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Colombia is number three on the list of nations with displaced people. Unlike other large displaced populations, however, Colombia’s half-million refugees aren’t really technically refugees, as the vast majority of them do not cross the border out of Colombia; in the language of international law, they remain internally displaced persons, or IDPs. In fact, although number three on the list of displaced persons worldwide — number one and two are Afghanistan and Iraq, in case you were wondering — Colombia has the most IDPs anywhere.
The research on IDPs generally shows that they are worse off than refugees as they remain in harm’s way. But as the civil war in Colombia has wound down, a few of Colombia’s IDPs are beginning to find ways to make their way home. A friend recently sent me a link to a series of video reports on one community’s efforts to go home (hat tip to Lina Villegas). This series (which is in Spanish) revolves around the efforts of women in Mampujan, a small town in northwest Colombia that was the site of a massacre on March 11, 2000.
This story illustrates a few important factors in the story of restoring displaced communities: story telling — here using beautiful quilts — land reclamation, and a few frames on the intimate relationships people develop with homes and common spaces like schools and businesses. I encourage you to watch the series, even if your Spanish isn’t very good. It is as illustrative as it is inspiring.