April 9 marked a solemn day across Colombia as it celebrated National Day of Memory and Solidarity with Victims of the Armed Conflict. The importance of the event cannot be understated in a country that has lost so many of its citizens to an internal armed struggle that has persisted for more than half a century.
At the same time, morale has been buoyed recently by the peace talks underway in Havana, Cuba, where the Colombian government has been meeting with the largest left-wing rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in an attempt to seek a resolution to the conflict.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted about the National Museum of Memory project on the occasion:
#PorLasVíctimasPorLaPaz, para restaurar su dignidad, reconocer su dolor y reparar el daño sufrido, levantaremos Museo Nacional de la Memoria
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) April 9, 2015
#PorLasVíctimasPorLaPaz [for the victims, for peace], to restore their dignity, recognize their pain, and repair the harm they have suffered, we will build a National Museum of Memory.
The National Centre for Historical Memory also took advantage of the day to promote the construction project:
— Centro Memoria H. (@CentroMemoriaH) April 9, 2015
Despite the homage to the victims, the day was mainly characterized by peace marches organized in different cities throughout the country, and Colombians were vocal in their opinions.
Michela Gómez (@ MichelaGOMEZ) summed up her impressions of the day:
Por lo que vi la #MarchaPorLaPaz fue todo un éxito los que queremos paz somos más
— Soy..YO (@MichelaGOMEZ) April 10, 2015
From what I saw #MarchaPorLaPaz was a big success, those of us who want peace are in the majority.
Meanwhile, Mateo Granada (@mateo_granada) thought that a day of marches and commemoration of the victims is not enough to secure peace:
#MarchaPorLaPaz Yo creo en la paz, pero ésta no se logra llenando portadas en revistas y titulares en la televisión.
— Mateo Zapata (@mateo_granada) April 10, 2015
#MarchaPorLaPaz I believe in peace, but you don't get it with magazine covers and television headlines.
Finally, Andrés Arcos (@andresarcosrent) raised an issue for debate: was this a march for peace or a march in memory of Colombian victims?
A ningún noticiero escuche hablando de la marcha en apoyo a las víctimas. Todos hablaban de una tal #MarchaPorLaPaz
— Andres Arcos (@andresarcosrent) April 10, 2015
I didn't hear a single news report about a march in support of the victims. They all talked about the peace march #MarchaPorLaPaz
One thing is certain: the issue of genuine peace is a challenge for Colombia, a country in which people freely offer their opinion about what should and should not be and the path going forward. A particularly salient example of this can be found in the participation of indigenous peoples, who are especially vulnerable to violence and made their presence known in the marches:
“Marcha por la paz Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del norte del Cauca. recorrido Miranda – Corinto C. pic.twitter.com/6PEKOioRaX
— Kiwe Nasa (@KiweNasa) April 9, 2015
“March for peace [by] the Association of Indigenous Councils of North Cauca. Miranda – Corinto C. route pic.twitter.com/6PEKOioRaX
In fact, as reported by César Pachón (@CesarPachoAgro), it was the so-called Indigenous Guard that led the march in the city of Bogota:
— César Pachón Achury (@CesarPachonAgro) April 10, 2015
The Indigenous Guard led the March for Peace.
The range of public opinion is broad, especially over key issues such as the unilateral cease fire declared by the FARC in December 2014 and the announcement by the government of funds earmarked for the victims.