Imagining the River:
Water, Violence and Dis/appearance in Colombia

In Colombia, rivers have had a central role in the use and circulation of violence, explicitly in the case of forced disappearance of people. Likewise, those dwelling on the riversides, live alongside the strength of the water and all that flows and transforms in it. In Risaralda, on the western side of the country, a backwater in one of the banks of the Cauca River is where the children find their shoes and toys, but also, is where animals, tree trunks, garbage, and waste from agricultural and mining industries, get trapped. So as the hundreds of bodies of people, that after being killed were thrown into this river. In Medellin, young people from peripheral districts have faced the abrupt transformation of space and their lives. In San Javier neighborhood, the slope of one of the surrounding mountains, long used as a quarry and garbage dump, and still as a debris landfill, has also been the assigned place where the bodies of disappeared persons were thrown and buried during military interventions and armed confrontations. In the southeast of the country, the development of infrastructure and the accelerated extractivist industrialization have transformed meadows, flooded forests, as well as the banks and riverbeds. In this region, a woman walks, searches, and imagines the places where her disappeared son could have been buried.

In this context, rivers, debris landfills, quarries, and cemeteries, configure complex geographies in which bodies of disappeared persons, communities that live there or walkthrough, and diverse extractives practices, are tightly related. An ecology, as deeply material as it is symbolic, in which what was decomposed and transformed into waste, gives way to hybrid forms of resisting and recomposing life and death.