William Ospina: “This Was a Country Founded on Agriculture Until It Was Abandoned.”

William Ospina is a Columbian writer and essayist, considered one of the most outstanding poets and essayists of recent generations. The author writes the story of an Aboriginal America.

For Ospina, the world is a place of high dissatisfaction, where people do not feel well-governed, where nature is mistreated, there is no employment, and where even the climate is changing. Ospina clarifies that he has been in favor of all the peace processes that have been proposed to us in recent years, but that it is an exaggeration to call it «peace» «Peace» is made when you recognize the importance and value of citizens and peaceful farmers who have been waiting for employment, health, education for years, and receive no reward for it,» he says.

The gap between the urban and rural remains; inequalities have caused citizens from rural territories to migrate to cities in search of opportunities. Rural development is closely related to peace processes and drug trafficking policy; war is still becoming rawer in the countryside every day and has generated inequity, resentment, and poverty. Demands for decent living conditions for farmers in education, employment, energy, sanitation, and water that have not yet been met are historic and countless.

In his academic life, Ospina has been interested in the history and social and political analysis of Columbia and Latin America. During the Hay Festival 2020, held in Cartagena, we had the opportunity to meet and talk about to Ospina about his books. We invite you to read the interview below.

Q: Do you think it is possible to return to a time of peace?

WO: I think peace depends on conditions. In earlier times, every small farmer their own plot. No one felt they had no future because they had what it took. When people start to think that they are not the richest in the world, it is at that point that values and principles are distorted; Now, for peace to be needed, a society with an inclusive economy that encompasses the countryside.

Q: Do you believe that the Columbia you present in your work has been wholly extinguished?

WO: It is partly extinct. Columbia was a country founded on agriculture until they abandoned it because they were going to industrialize it, but that never happened. Then unemployment started, and people grew up in poverty. But it was not extinguished. I feel that the nobility and kindness of the people are still there. I know a lot of people, especially the poorest people, who like to do things right. Getting things right is the secret to making a country work.

Q: In your book, there is a lot of image of trails, of the countryside, of rurality, while the planet already suffers from the fact that there are more urban areas than rural ones. How do you see Columbian rurality now?

WO: Telling the story of my great-grandparents, I have found the story of how the history of farmers built in Columbia and how, for more than a century, that country lived in peace, founded on work, in the family, in hospitality and how the political violence of the 50s destroyed that world, threw thousands of small farmers into the cities and began the process of contemporary Columbian history.

When I look at the world of impoverished farmers, I am not only looking at a fragment of Columbia’s history, a piece of contemporary history in which a project was formulated that was against the background even of Columbian violence. Then we had to turn our backs on the agrarian world and the farmer world. We had to join this quest for progress and development in a purely urban, industrial, consumerist sense. And now, we are at a breaking moment because we already know that this model of development is the one that is ruining the planet.

Today the farmer has not been considered the subject of development actions, and on many occasions. Farmers are hardly recognized when they claim their rights and political promises are not realized in efforts related to their crops or improving their living conditions.  We have to turn around and regain the field.

Q: In Columbia, the rate of small farmers killed during 2019 reached 250. What do we need as a society to root out this evil that is taking our lives?

WO: We need to recognize that the victims of this massacre are not leaders with a defined political affiliation, in terms of left and right, but instead are environmental fighters. Columbia is perhaps the most dangerous country in the world for ecological fighters today, and the phenomenon is worsened by the fact that those who are murdering them are sectors interested in the plundering of waters, forests, or mines. All this means that we do not see this extermination as mere persecution by political ideas, but something more severe, the profound persecution of defenders of life and nature against the pretensions and ambitions of some militias, some illegal and some legal, and a state that is not clear about its response. What must be recognized are those high forces that are advancing on society do not respect human life.

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