Joe in Cartagena

Joe Tulchin is a Latin Americanist scholar with published researcher on hemispheric security and international affairs, citizen security and police reform, reducing inequality and the governance of cities. He also has 25 years of teaching experience at Yale and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with 16 years as a director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


Andrés Lafe is a current a graduate student at American University and is working as an intern at Social Enterprise Associates. 

By Joe Tulchin

June 15, 2010

Joe Tulchin writes us from a recent trip to Cartagena, Colombia:

"It feels a bit weird to be back in Cartagena after nearly 30 years. The last date I have clearly in mind is December 1979 when we [Joe and son Drew] went to Cartagena.  We stayed in an apartment in the Typewriter Building.  That building still exists.  However, around it and towering over it are at least 100 high-rises. Stopped in again early in the 1980s when the drug dealers began to launder money in Cartagena. Now, the old city is completely renovated-a sort of colonial Disney World, with elegant boutiques, restaurants, and bright nights for the pedestrians. I was driven out into the country to interview a group of women called La Liga de Mujeres Desplazados (The League of Displaced Women) who have created a kind of co-op village for women displaced by the violence and drug wars." 

We looked into La Liga de Mujeres Deplazadas a bit and found that over the past 8 years La Liga has worked in the poorest neighborhoods primarily with single women and women heads of households. It started with 8 women and is now over 300 women strong with diverse mix of ethnic backgrounds, not only serving Cartagena but also several localities on the outskirts of the city. La Liga provides important social services, from regular medical and dental services to nutritional guidance, as well as educational support for children and leadership and self-esteem workshops for women.  They also advocate at the national and local level for women's rights and human rights in general.

Joe concludes by saying: 

"The poverty in the countryside is unchanged in the last 50 years.  The new money on display in Cartagena merely reflects the gross disparity in income and the even more gross amount of drug money being laundered all over the country."

Both through Joe's note and our research, it's clear that the work of La Liga de Mujeres Deplazadas highlights the important needs of women and Colombians, in general. It also reflects the strength of Colombian communities to combat the political and social instability that had plagued Cartagena and Colombia for many years. While Colombia's violence has seen an overall decline in the past decade, the work of grassroots organizations still remains vital.  La Liga's efforts, like many other grassroots organizations in Colombia, are a critical means for civic integration and offer great stepping stone towards a safe and more equal Colombia.



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