Bajamar Ballads










For years, 25.000 Afro-Colombian refugees and migrants have lived in a town on stilts over the sea at the edge of Buenaventura on Colombian’s Pacific coast. But now the Colombian government is attempting to relocate the entire community to an island barrio so that it can develop a commercial port and tourist beaches.


Community leaders are trying to resist the eviction or at least fight for decent compensation. The move would not only rob residents of their homes but of their main livelihood – fishing. The majority of the residents of the area are black and many see the eviction in race terms. They argue that the Afro-Colombians have managed to acquire prime real estate and now the white and mixed race elite want to take it for themselves.


To rally for the cause, activist Benildo Estupiñan has organized local musicians and singers to compose songs that raise consciousness of the issues they face.


From that call, a collective of 30 singers and musicians was formed in December 2010 and given the name “Marcando Territorio” or Defending Territory. They are organizing concerts, rallies and recording songs in defence of their homes and way of live.


Residents argue that evicting them and moving them to a proposed housing development would only increase their problems. Estupiñan says it would leave them poor and unemployed in an island ghetto. Beyond the economic factors, residents say their “territory” is at the core of their identity. It is the place where they say they can fish, chop wood and collect tropical fruit from the mangroves.


The residents feel they are a persecuted minority that has never received anything from the government as one of the musicians, Pompilio Castillo, sings: “The poor man has never been taken into account. The government and the rich will not listen to you.”


Al Jazeera, July 2011