Recently, the world has felt the impact of some really terrible and tragic obstacles; particularly in both my countries, the US and Colombia. While the rhetoric of super alt-right groups in America are fostering fear and socially destructive setback, bombs are being dropped on hospitals in Aleppo. While Native American’s are fiercely uniting across The Great Plains to protect their land, water, and tradition… a plane fell from the sky carrying nearly 80 dreams, hopes, and lives.
It seems that during a time that should be filled with love, gratitude and (the obvious) holiday cheer, world events are telling us otherwise. Across social media I chose to be less politically or socially vocal. I share knowledge when I find it appropriate, but generally, I use Facebook and the like as a means to follow my peers’ socio-political expression. Most of the time, I find those opinions/articles/statuses to be less biased and more thoughtful and diverse than the mainstream. I’m lucky to have peers like that.
A week ago, another terrible thing happened in Bogota, not too far from where I live. A young girl, from a poor neighborhood was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a man from Bogota’s estrato seis* and belonging to a prominent family. Her name was Yuliana Andrea Samboni and she become the catalyst of change for inequalities in Colombia. Her murder represents all the social and economic inequalities, as well as the gender-based violence that has plagued Colombia for generations and has created a movement of people across the country demanding change from a corrupt system to stop these injustices from happening. The case of Yuliana represents three tentacles suffocating Colombian society: gender, economic, and social inequalities.
Gender-based violence in Colombia is an issue that has increasingly more awareness shined upon it, yet until recently, nobody spoke of. From rape, to domestic abuse, to murder, or acid attacks, violence against women continues to leave scars on generations of women and girls, and a society as a whole. This problem knows no region or social class and requires more than a restructure of political adequacy: it requires a shift in cultural and social values that have been inherited from generations of machismo culture, which fosters these actions. The solution comes from educating our children from an early age about respect, judgement and how to speak to each other. That education might be taught through lesson or example, but so long as it is taught! I can’t count how many times I’ve heard male friends (in Bogota) speak about women in a way that stunned me and churned my stomach. There was nothing blatantly discriminatory or violent in their word choice, but the underlying objectification and machismo made me wonder how far until the rhetoric begins to turn violent?
Economic and social inequalities are what make up much of the cultural structure of Colombia and are a large part as to why it is viewed as a third-world country to most the world. Often times, these two issues lend one problem to the other and perpetuate a cycle of poverty which make it difficult for a population to rise from. While a long drawn civil war is considered the culprit for the crippling effects of Colombia’s socio-economic downfall, that war is rooted in social and financial injustices. It’s not uncommon to pay your way out of a problem or use influence for personal and political gain. Corruption on all levels runs rampant, but only a small percentage of people can afford that luxury.
What’s the difference between the business man who inherited a few offices from his family and the taxi driver who works 6am-6pm every day? One only has to look for influence or favors from officials that can benefit him when stuck with an issue they don’t want to deal with. Is this a negative or pessmistic or even classist way to look at Colombian culture? Yes, probably. But that’s how it is. That’s how it is. They say you feel this way about injustices until you face your own issues; and then you start looking for your own ladder of influence. That’s probably true too. Paying your problems off is just a bandaid cure to the graver social issues. That’s what corruption does within society: It hides our flaws by burying them deeper and deeper until suddenly, social media and international news outlets are plastering the face of a pedophile from your social circle across your phones and Facebook pages and you’re like “What the fuck is wrong with us?”
Cases like this are not extreme or random, in fact they happen often and to varying degrees; and with a majority of the population facing poverty and injustices every single day, there becomes a moment when the flood gates cannot contain anymore and the people began to demand change.
The biggest outcray to the Yuliana Andrea case, is not only that a young girl was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered (stats show that this occurs more than 5 times a day across Colombia) but that there is a possibility of this sociopath, pedophile, and murderer avoiding consequence simply because of where he comes from and who his family might know–meanwhile the family and community Yuliana comes from suffers greatly and can do nothing against the system.
Who is to blame in these situations? Surely the aggressor for his crimes. But more importantly, the finger should be pointed toward the officials who continue to let this sprawl of corruption continue. The officials who grant the favors of the estrato seis, the politicans who take money in exchange for silence, the presidents who decide to sign a treaty without consulting the plebiscite. Without proper accountability for its actions, a society will only continue to tangle itself in the tentacles of its flaws.
What I’m seeing now from Colombia is the start of a social shift, similar to what we saw during the Arab Spring. Social media being used as an outlet for collection data and sharing opinions, demonstrations, and models with others. The shift may not be calling for a new government, but rather calling for awareness. Colombians are letting the world know they are no longer going to sit back while the governement is run by a small group of influencers, or allow their women and girls to be victims of violence at the hands of men who act selfishly. The people are demanding more accountability in crimes like the ones that happened to little Yuliana Andrea and millions of other girls and women before her, and no amount of money or family history can take that justice away.
This is not just about gender or money. This is about creating a better society for everyone. One that respects and one that we no longer have to fear. And for that, I too believe #niunamas #niunamenos.
*Estrato Seis: the highest classification of socio-economic placement within society and the government in Colombia. Used both coliqually and officially by Colombians. (aka the highest social class.)