Conflict in Colombia comes to SMWC

By Jade Scott
Editor-in-Chief

Pictures of malnourished children, families of five or more living in a single tent, a woman and child out on the street torn from their home, and an entire community of people forced to live on top of a landfill.

Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo speaks of her travels and work in Colombia. (Photo credit: Jade Scott)

For more than 50 years the people of Colombia have been living in turmoil, stuck in the middle of a war that seems to not have an end.  The situation has become so abominable that Colombia is now ranked first in the world in human rights violations.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College’s Peace and Justice Club brought Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo and Stephen Ferry, both photographers and journalists, to campus to speak on their experiences documenting the conflict in Colombia on Oct. 22.

Terre Haute resident, McNichols-Torroledo, who fled Colombia to escape the war and violence, went back to expose the plight of the indigenous people there. Ferry, whose work has appeared in National Geographic, was also drawn to Colombia and was introduced to McNichols-Torroledo in the summer of 2011.

“McNichols-Torroledo and Ferry’s work … was so inspiring to all of us in the Peace and Justice Committee,” said Peace and Justice President, Nora Dalipi.  “We all decided that this would be a great opportunity for not just the club members, but as well as for the SMWC community to hear from McNichols-Torroledo and Ferry themselves about their stories, their work, and their view on peace and justice”.

Ferry, who has worked extensively in Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and South America, recently published “Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict”. 

This tabloid-size book is meant to document the suffering and struggle that is going on within Colombia and within the people that are living there.  Composing of past images by Colombian news photographers and current work by Ferry, the book should read like a newspaper with both text and strong imagery.

“As a documentary photographer I never change anything in the scene,” Ferry said.  “I don’t create or set anything up.  Capturing violent images creates a biding feeling of sadness.  What they have to face is infinitely harder than anything I have ever had to face.”

McNichols-Torroledo has been passionately working to draw international attention to the millions of indigenous people of Colombia that have been forced from their homes.

In certain places of Colombia entire groups of indigenous people, like the Embera and the Wounan, have been displaced and forced to live in inhospitable places.  For the Embera people in particular, the Colombian government assigned a living location that had been a landfill.

On her last trip to Colombia McNichols-Torroledo and several licensed practitioners took medical help to the Embera people.  While they are forced to live on this landfill they are drinking polluted water, malnourished, catching viruses, and other medical complications.

Stephen Ferry shows images from his recently published book, “Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict”. (Photo credit: Jade Scott)

“They have cleaned the area as much as possible, working to better their environment for their kids,” McNichols-Torroledo said.  “But everything they plant is polluted and continues to contribute to their problems.  It was important that they got immediate help, and we did help a lot of people.  But it is a permanent change that they need.”

For more information on the work McNichols-Torroledo and Ferry have done, visit their websites at http://www.stephenferry.com/home_sm.html and http://alexandramcnichols.wix.com/embera-and-wounan-project.

Ferry’s book on the situation in Colombia, “Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict” is also available for sale at http://www.amazon.com/.

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