In Forgotten Peace: Reform, Violence and the Making of Contemporary Colombia
(University of California Press 2017), Robert Karl
explores how Colombians grappled with violence and peace during and after the period known as “La Violencia”—a period that many historians situate between 1946 and the mid 1960s. Questioning narratives that have portrayed Colombia as an inherently and permanently violent country, Karl shows the making of creole peace—an attempt at peace building that took place between 1958-1960, and followed no script or model. Though ultimately unsuccessful and forgotten by scholars and lay Colombians, this attempt of peace-building in the context of the Frente Nacional (National Front) is still worthy of remembrance.
But Forgotten Peace
goes beyond this, and historicizes how the temporal concept of “La Violencia,” as a way of delimiting a particular time period of Colombia’s history, came into being in the 1960s, and was the result of alienation from this nearly decade-long experiment with democratization and social reform. Here we learn not only about the intricate relationship between peace and violence, but also about how Colombians have decided to remember and understand their past. This is a cautionary tale for Colombia today, as Karl tell us by the end of the interview, for the past shows us that peace requires an unequivocal commitment on the part of the state, something that did not occur in the 50s and 60s, and that unfortunately, does not seem to be happening in the aftermath of the peace accord signed in 2016 between the Colombian government and the FARC.
Lisette Varón-Carvajal is a PhD student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. You can tweet her and suggest books at @LisetteVaron