Arde la casa, on political violence, family and exile

Margarita V Beltran

2019 - Ongoing


Arder la casa, on political violences, family and exile by Margarita V Beltran

What is a name

if It can not be heard

written or said?

And what is a truth when it can not be mention?

not when your life and the lives of your loved ones are at risk.

We are stading in a limbo, where language takes a subtle form

Filled with euphemisms and turns

We stand there because it is the only place where we are safe. by now.

I see him from afar and I can only understand him through nouns,

he appears as a silhoutte, found in the top of the road

all that remains is us, my mother, my brother and I

Spectators of our own history


In 2015 my papa crossed the Colombian border fleeing the political persecution to which he had been subjected for decades after finishing his term as mayor of a small town on the border with Venezuela.

I remember him disappearing on different occasions when I was still a child, but then, fairy tales that my parents told me justified his absence. In 2015, for the first time, I understood my family fragmented and separated in the harshness of a country where political violence reaches the worst statistics in the world.

I began this project with the need to encounter my family through our phographic archive and in doing so I understood the multiple layers involved in the experience of political violence in Colombia. Violence has not just one straight form: it can be simbolic, it is discoursive, it can come in short but poignant waves, is passive aggresive, It can be heroic, It camouflages itself in cultural traditions, it presents itself in the most unusual ways.

There are three elements that run through the narrative construction of this project: fire, bullfighting and the figure of the caudillo. The fire as an element inserted in the Colombian popular culture, used in the december celebrations for the tradition of the , in which a doll in the shape of a person and of real size, stuffed with paper is burned to symbolize the closing of the year that passes and the burning of the bad things. Fire has also been used to threaten, to frighten and to instill fear and in some cases to kill. Our house which was set on fire as a threat when my father took office as mayor, burning part of the mountain of forest belonging to the property.

Bullfighting, as a popular festivity in Colombia, practiced mostly in villages of the Andean region, bullfighting that symbolizes the fight between two opposites that reflect each other. The bullfighting that represents the colonial culture, its inclination for the fight and the suppression of the other. Bullfighting that symbolizes an ideological and power struggle between two worlds and positions: that of the caudillo and the colonist.

The figure of the caudillo as historical, cultural and ideological patrimony of a common someone who saves us -the people- from the evils of the rulers. A romanticized figure that normalizes state violence against social leaders and independent politicians. An Heroic figure that represents my father and the hundreds of assassinated and exiled in our state of war.

This project is a way to understand my family history, to reflect on the circumstances of our separation, and is a way to be near my brother, my mom and my dad.

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