An enormous green desert. Leaving the Cali Airport, a sea of sugarcane plantations covers the extensive flats of Cauca, one of the most fertile regions of the Colombian countryside. Here, coffee cultivation has barely taken root, going back only two decades. Manuel Rozental, a doctor who has followed the activities and movements of the indigenous peoples of the North Cauca region for years, comments on the scenery from his seat at the back of the bus, remarking “It’s the agrofuels business.” Here, sugarcane trains stuffed to the brim cross all along the Pan-American route as they make their way to the refineries that border the track systems. As they go, they are met with the indifferent, and seemingly lost, gazes from rows of black countrymen, as they slowly saunter toward their poorly-constructed houses.
After an hour of travel, we reach Santander de Quilichao, a large rural town of about 70,000 inhabitants, the first city of Cauca to appear on the route. Here, the black population is the majority, mostly those emigrated or displaced by the war, and surviving on jobs within the sugarcane industry or local businesses.
The first sensation to hit is one of insecurity, possibly because of the disorder, and undoubtedly due to comments from those accompanying me, who haven’t stopped talking about how this region still belongs to the paramilitaries. Manuel gives his seat to a pair of indigenous guards that take his place in silence, holding their nightsticks that flaunt small multicolored strips.
FULL ARTICLE: The Indigenous Guard of Colombia | Warrior Publications.