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In his photographs, Federico Ríos explores transformations in the Colombian armed conflict through the period of negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) (2010–2016) and the unfolding post-peace accord moment. His photo-essay includes many of the conflict’s armed actors, such as guerrilla groups that have been pushed to Colombia’s borderlands. Yet the series of photographs goes beyond classic depictions of Colombia’s armed conflict to include a photographic reflection on the exodus of Venezuelan migrants through many of those same borderlands. Ríos’s work challenges us to think of geopolitical upheaval in northern South American from a regional perspective in which flows of actors across dire, interconnected contexts cross-fertilize in spaces of militarization, deterritorialization, and economic crisis.
Within a historical vantage, this perspectival reorientation harkens back to the post-independence period in the early nineteenth century when pockets of loyalist resistance, bandits, and smugglers traversed the northern Andes as the young republic of Gran Colombia struggled to consolidate its authority. Ríos’s images challenge us to tack between small details, such as a migrant’s blistered feet and the big picture of a region in which states are unable to monopolize violence or figure out how to wield it legitimately. His pictures offer clues for a future research agenda, subtly raising questions such as: Will Venezuelan migrants be pulled into the ranks of narco, guerrilla, and paramilitary groups? How can borders as porous as those in southern and eastern Colombia help us hone our understanding of the state? To what extent are historical geopolitics a factor in contemporary international relations? How are social networks and the speed of information transfer accelerating the interconnection between phenomena that researchers have tended to isolate.
— Alexander L. Fattal
University of California, San Diego
Copyright information: Photos are copyright ©Federico Ríos