Mario Rodríguez challenged the state for over 15 years as a former FARC combatant until he was one of the first to demobilize with the signing of the Colombian peace accords in 2016. Since then, he has joined with others who have laid down their arms to organize a coffee cooperative to provide employment and social welfare to themselves and their families.
While looking forward, Mario also shares his insights – and frustrations – with the implementation of the peace accords for him personally and more specifically future generations. For instance, he believes the lessons of the past conflict must be learned but are being lost. Instead of incorporating those who were submerged in the conflict into formal institutions like schooling as both students and educators to share the truth about the pain and horror of war, many stakeholders actively suppress such experiences and the truth is not being told. In denying this reality and instead promoting an “institutional vision” of history, this approach is both failing the past and arguably Colombia’s future. Unless the true pain of war is understood by this and future generations, Colombia will be restrained from transitioning away from conflict and towards “true peace.”
“If we do not change the current educational system, my daughter and other children will not understand Colombia’s violent and painful path, they will continue with a biased vision, and there will not be a path to peace.”
Mario recommends that for future programming to be effective in truly promoting peace, wider community participation must be prioritized by addressing the daily challenges that often prohibit ongoing involvement. As he underscores, “Education in Colombia today continues to be a privilege of those who have the money.” And within formal schooling – be it basic, secondary, or tertiary, local perspectives must be integrated in larger “institutional narratives.” This includes listening to and incorporating the community concerns that have facilitated ongoing violence, as well as the pain it has caused over recent decades.