Cross-posted at equinoXio english edition
Colombian legendary actor Edgardo Román, impersonating Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, as he did in the 1980’s TV miniseries Gaitán, during the commemorative acts in Bogotá. Mr Román’s resemblance with Mr Gaitán is striking. Photo by Victor Solano and used with permission.
Many Colombians believe that if charismatic Colombian Liberal Party leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán had not been shot and killed on April 9, 1948, at 13:05, in front of the Agustín Nieto building, where his lawyer’s office was located (today the Bank of the Republic building), he would have become President of Colombia in 1950, and maybe the fate of this troubled South American country would have been quite different.
Lo realmente importante del 9 de abril de 1948 son los eventos que se desencadenan a partir de ese momento. Y, más aún, las implicaciones que ese hecho tiene sobre nuestra vida presente. Para decirlo de una manera breve: Gaitán fue la oportunidad más próxima que han tenido los sectores marginados de llevar a la presidencia a una persona que representara genuinamente sus intereses. (…) Era, en cualquier caso, una figura incómoda para las élites políticas tradicionales y, sin duda, un obstáculo para los planes de ordenamiento político continental. (…) El mensaje político de reivindicación de los intereses de los marginados sigue vigente en un país donde cerca de la mitad de su población se encuentra bajo la línea de pobreza y donde se encuentra uno de los peores indicadores de distribución de la riqueza del mundo. Desde 1948 no hemos tenido un solo presidente por fuera del modelo liberal-conservador, que represente intereses diferentes a los de las élites tradicionales asociadas al capital transnacional o, más recientemente, a la mafia.
The truly important thing that took place on April 9, 1948 is the events which were unleashed since that moment. And, furthermore, the implications that the event has had over our current life. To say it briefly: Gaitán was the closest chance the marginalized society had to take to the Presidency, a person who genuinely represented their interests. (…) He was, in any case, a figure uncomfortable for the traditional political elites and, undoubtedly, for the plans of continental political order. (…) The political message vindicating the interests of the marginalized people is still valid in a country where around half of its population lives below the poverty line and where one of the worst indicators of wealth distribution in the world is found. Since 1948 we have not had a president outside the Liberal-Conservative (parties) model, who represents interest outside the ones of the traditional elites associated to the transnational capital or, more recently, the mafia.
As most Colombians know, Gaitán’s murder unleashed several riots that day and during the weekend, known as the Bogotazo. Miguel Carrillo, from Populachero [es] questions the way some people mark this "revolution":
¿Cuál es el mito del bogotazo? ¿estamos realmente “celebrando” la destrucción de una ciudad? Desde siempre nos dicen que en el 9 de Abril empezó la violencia que nos agobia en este momento. Que cómodo. Me niego a pensar que exista un solo colombiano que se coma todavía ese cuento. (…) Muchos dirán que recordar el bogotazo y vanagloriarlo es una forma de recordar que los profundos problemas sociales que existían en ese tiempo todavía no se han resuelto. Yo digo que es lo contrario. Porque decir “eso fue desde el bogotazo” es una forma de cortar la dolorosa y necesaria discusión de que carajos fue lo que salió mal en este país.
What is the myth of El Bogotazo? Are we really "celebrating" the destruction of a entire city? Since the year, we are told that on April 9, the violence which wears us down started. It’s so comfortable. I refuse to believe there is still a single Colombian who buys that story (…) A lot of people will say that remembering El Bogotazo and boasting about it is a way to remember that our deep social issues that existed at the time haven’t been solved yet. I say it’s exactly the opposite, because saying "that was since the Bogotazo" is a way to cut the painful, necessary discussion about what the hell went wrong in this country.
Lines before Populachero wonders why there are not T-shirts carrying Gaitán’s image as there are all kinds of memorabilia with Ernesto Che Guevara’s face.
American Blaine Sheldon at Ojo gringo remarks about the Semana magazine website’s multimedia special on El Bogotazo, and leaves his two cents:
This anniversary comes as a timely reminder that these tensions still carry overtones that echo deeply in contemporary Colombian society. The dichotomies of class and political orientation remain today just as real sixty years in passing. Even so, the history plays out as much in its epic nature as its conspiracy. To this day it is not known whether the would-be assassin, Juan Roa Sierra, actually perpetrated the incident, or whether he was merely a scapegoat beaten to his death by those thirsty for vengeance. Every crisis charges a pariah, but perhaps as evidence enough today in Colombia, this zeal often perpetuates tomorrow’s conflict.
Personally, I recommend the weekly newspaper El Espectador’s website multimedia special, featuring articles, audios, pictures, context information, and video excerpts from a Caracol TV / The History Channel co-production which premiered Wednesday night.
One of the pages of 1949 graphical novel La gran mancha roja, which provides the Conservative Party’s view on El Bogotazo. Mr Gaitán is shown at the first and the third frames. Photo provided by Juglar del Zipa.
At Juglar del Zipa [es], Miguel Olaya shares with us La gran mancha roja ("The big red stain"), a 1949 graphical novel, presumably written by “a militant of the Conservative Party who mantains that Gaitán’s murder was the result of a communist conspiracy against the Pan-American Conference” [which was being held at Bogotá at the time of the crime and ended with the creation of the Organization of American States] “and, of course, the institutions of the Republic and the party"”, which was ruling the country at the time, with art by R. Scandoglio.
A small crowd gathers around a flower arrangement with the image of political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, murdered on 9 April 1948, during the commemorative acts in the 60th anniversary of the crime. Photo by Victor Solano and used with permission.
Hoy, varios de los seguidores del caudillo levantaron sus puños para lanzar vivas y emular el tono grandilocuente y por supuesto demagógico del máximo líder natural del ‘trapo rojo’ en los años cincuenta [...] Seguí en el sitio otros 20 minutos más y así tuve la oportunidad de ver a algunos estudiantes realizaron un performance en el que representaron a Gaitán y su Marcha del Silencio, ante la mirada desconcertada de los transeúntes. [...] Ya saliendo del lugar, luego de haber completado cerca de 40 minutos allí [...] veo a Edgardo Román, uno de esos actores de teatro que parecería que no fueron formados sino forjados en el más rudo de los fuegos.
Today, several of the supporters of the Colombian caudillo raised their fists to cheer and emulate the grandiloquent and, of course, demagogic tone of the chief leader of the ‘red cloth’ in the 1950s […] I remained there another for 20 minutes, so I had a chance to see a performance by some college students, where they represented Gaitán and his Silent March, before the disconcerted look of the peasants. […] When I was leaving the place, after having completed 40 minutes there […] I could see Edgardo Román, one of those theatre actors who seems to have not been "raised" but "forged" on the toughest of fires.