Mapping Colombian Emblematic Memories

What is this project about?

Mapping Colombian Emblematic Memories is a project looking to visualize competing infrastructures of memory in Colombia. Such visualization is needed to understand the contours of the Colombian politics of memory and hopefully to find ways to produce transformative conversations in a context where the institutional reforms are not enough to solve the problems creating long-lasting political violence in the country. The project provides a conceptual framework interpreting the sites of memory it is mapping. Still, this is a work in progress, and changes can be made while more data is retrieved and discussions about the appropriateness of those concepts are given.  

The project presents a map of Colombia with 59 locations representing individual sites of memory. This project’s data was retrieved from two sources: the Colombian Network of Sites of Memory and the National Police. Those sites have their own map representing an extended infrastructure of memory where the interpretation of the past is somewhat pristine and unproblematic. Mapping Colombian Emblematic Memories puts in the same map those different infrastructures and those different sets of narratives. The objective is not to suggest all narratives have the same weight or the same validity. Questions about how valid, fair, or truthful those narratives are, are not the kind of question this project wants to answer. The objective is to acknowledge the past as a field of conflict where embodied interpretations collide to produce change or continuity.

User experience

The project is made of five interconnected web pages. The content of the web pages is run with Bootstrap and Mapbox libraries. As experienced coders know, Bootstrap provides the basic elements of the web page, saving a lot of time in coding. Mapbox, on the other hand, is a web map application facilitating the production of maps and the visualization of geographical information.

The webpage was built thinking about the importance of having a conceptual reference to interpret the various memories about the Colombian inner armed conflict. Accordingly, the project has a storytelling map functioning as a conceptual background to understand the Colombian politics of memory the map represents. The conceptual background is not as profound as it could be, but it was not attempting to be a rigorous theoretical statement. Such an achievement is better appreciated in different formats, like an article or a book. Therefore, the project’s conceptual reference is only pointing to references that interested users can look at if they are interested.

The project’s web map has three different icons representing three types of emblematic memory I am proposing to understand Colombian politics of memory. The users can explore the map and finding information about every individual spot. They can find the location, the name of the site, the type of community behind it and access further information by visiting the websites from the communities building and maintaining the sites of memory the map shows.

What went right, what went wrong, and what will happen in the future of the project?

The project provides a map to visualize different sites of memory collectives of survivors and the state has been building. Those sites show collective understandings of the past are splintered due to reasons the project does not explore, but that could be explored following the data it provides. The project also facilitates a conceptual section to help to make sense of the frameworks of meaning different collectives of people use to talk about Colombian violence and its legacies. All of those things are positive achievements of the project.

The project needs more data. There are many sites of memory in Colombia, tied to the inner armed conflict, that the sources the project uses do not contemplate. In technical terms, some functions could be working better (like the hyperlinks connecting the sites of memory to the communities’ websites). Finally, the project demands a bilingual user because the content of most of the project is in English, while critical information the map displays, like the site’s name, is in Spanish.  

The project needs allies to grow. My plan is to look for them in academy and outside of it. It also needs to be more inclusive for the Colombian community. In that regard, it should have an option to have its contents in Spanish.

You can visit the project clicking on this URL link:       

Juan Carlos Rico Noguera

2020-2021 CHI Grad Fellow Cohort

Ph.D. Student, Anthropology