Mixtape #6: Fearless Colombian Change Makers & Their Music

Produced by Camille Duran / Published by Eleen Murphy / Senior Editors Eleen Murphy & Camille Duran / Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space. Photo by Marcelo Salinas.

Today we are taking you on a trip to Colombia in South America. Yes, it’s summertime and it’s time to escape…with music that will make you want to dance. But more than that, we’ll be diving deep into the reality of Colombian change makers. What does life look like for change makers over there? What can we learn from them and from the challenges they face in their country? We find out, with our guest speaker & friend Liz Arnedo.

This mix is  “GUTS – Columbian Pura nr. 8” by Shearer, and it’s been the soundtrack in our office for the last few weeks. Let’s go!
This mixtape is primarily designed for 3 specific situations:

S1: You are thinking of taking Latin dance classes but you need this extra boost of motivation to help you finally subscribe to the course.
S2: You are thinking of going to Columbia for a vacation to discover the coffee region, the historic heritage and the beautiful landscapes. We give you the context you need!
S3: You invited your neighbours for a thematic Colombian dinner, and you need a good soundtrack.

Complimentary Resources:

Surviving in the City: Bogota, Colombia – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

Antanas Mockus:

Cities on Speed: Bogota Change / The Inspiring Story Antanas Mockus – Documentary. 2009.
Presidential candidate Antanas Mockus closes his campaign – PK Archive. In Spanish.
The Art of Changing a City – NY Times [article]. 2015.
These are the Five Reasons Mockus won the Presidency – Huffington Post [article].
Mockus’ Unwinnable Campaign Against Corruption – Colombia Reports [article]. 2010.

The Marmato story: 

• Canadian mining in Colombia – CBC documentary. 2008.
The courageous Colombian activist going head-to-head with mining interests – NY Times [article]. 2016.
Colombia’s resistance to Canadian mining interests is multi-faceted and fearless – Rabble.ca [article]. 2017.
Marmato – Documentary Film [website]. 2014.
Marmato Road Block – 2014.
• Response from Marmato, Colombia to the murder of Father José Reinel Restrepo – Mining Watch [article]. 2011.
Big Win For Colombian Community Against Canadian Mining Giant – Telesur TV [article]. 2017.
Gran Colombia Gold files 700 million lawsuit against Colombia over Marmato Project – Financial Post [article]. 2017.

Back to series page

Next episode

Transcript from the Episode

Camille Duran (CD): Hola que tal? You are listening to Green Exchange, this is our thematic mixtape number six, feel at home and get ready for 30 minutes of escape, it’s time to disconnect and travel the world. You know it, the central element of our mixtapes is the music track. And around this track we tell stories, we feature quotes, insights or whatever connects to the sounds we are playing.
Today we are taking you to Colombia, in South America. Let me be clear, this music is going to make you want to dance. But further than this we wanted to use this theme to take a deep dive into the reality of Colombian change makers. Like you and me, they are working everyday on making this world a better place. What can we learn from them? from the situation in Colombia? how do they live? what are the key challenges for social and environment change in this part of the world? Let’s find out.
To help me decrypt and tell those stories with a proper Latin colour, I have with me in the studio my good friend Liz Arnedo. Hello Liz.

Liz Arnedo (LA):Hello

CD: Liz you are originally from Venezuela but you lived in Colombia for a few years and it’s a culture that you know quite well. You can relate to it better than me that’s for sure. So you will be the main voice for this mixtape. Is it  your first time on a microphone? Not counting the karaoke…

LA: Let’s not talk about the karaoke!

CD: This mixtape is primarily designed for 3 specific situations:

  • Situation 1: You are thinking of taking latin dance classes but you never really tried that kind of music and you want to get this extra boost of motivation that will make you finally subscribe to the course? Well, there you go.
    By the way, you can also use this mixtape to practice in front of the mirror. Remember to ignore how clumsy you may look at first. Do not care about what people think, just enjoy yourself.
  • Situation 2: You are thinking of going to Columbia for a vacation to discover the coffee region, the historic heritage and the beautiful landscapes. Of course you need some context about what’s going on over there! Hopefully this mixtape will make you want to get out of the hotel and get a real taste for the culture
  • Situation 3: You invited your neighbours for a thematic dinner, you cooked Bandeja Paisa? You’re going to need appropriate background music to go with the food, with the frijoles rojos, con la carne molida chicharrón el huevo frito con el plátano maduro chorizo los arepas la salsa hogao la morcilla, el avocado y el limon… you like my gringo accent?

LA: Very much.

CD: Years of practice.

CD: More seriously, there is something interesting we are going to touch on here. Life is very hard in Colombia – for most people. And still, the music is cheerful – yes, sometimes with dramatic lyrics and melancholic melodies – but from abroad we feel mostly positive vibes. Is it just me, or…?

LA: No, I agree with you. It is true. It’s something that is very disconnected from where the reality is. I think it’s always talking about love and life but in a cheerful way, or as you say, in a melancholic way, right? And it’s something that is changing in some countries. Like in Venezuela right now, they are talking more about the reality that societies live in.

CD: Right. And this dissonance is a strange characteristic that we find in many countries’ musical scene, not just in Latin America. So be it. It’s worth mentioning because some of the stories we tell today are not that cheerful, but the music will keep us smiling.

LA: Yes, of course.

Let’s get to it. This mix is titled  “GUTS – Colombian Pura nr. 8” by Shearer. And I hope it makes you travel as much as it did for us. We had it loud in the office for the whole week.
Let’s go!




Voice Over: For decades, Colombia has been in the grips of a brutal conflict that has torn its social fabric apart. It’s been called an invisible crisis because it fails to make news and its victims prefer to remain anonymous. Various illegal armed groups have forced more than 3.5 million people from their homes. They operate mostly in rural areas, pushing people off their land, forcibly recruiting children, and controlling illegal drug crops.




LA: Well there are five themes that dominate the agenda for change makers in Colombia. There is corruption in politics, the problems around mining, the drug trafficking, and the poverty eradication, the discrimination in racism and sexism. All these problems are of course interconnected.
There are 5 themes dominate the agenda for change makers in Columbia and people feel quite powerless in general. When you are working with change, it might feel like your life is at risk, that you are defenceless, that you are not protected…

CD: Yeah, there is this history of just removing leaders who work for the people and are fighting for change. Send them to jail, or…

LA: Or maybe be killed.




LA: There is story that I love. The ex-Mayor of Bogota, Antanas Mockus was threatened by the FARC, like many mayors in Colombia.

CD: The FARCs are this leftist guerrilla group we talk about on TV all the time, right?

LA: Yes, exactly. Antanas Mockus decided to wear a bulletproof vest. And he cut the shape of a heart.

CD: In the vest?

LA: In the vest, yes.

CD: A hole cut in a heart shape in his life vest over the chest…

LA: Exactly, yes. That was a symbol of confidence and defiance to the FARC, and to the situation in general that they were living in in that moment.

CD: How was this received, or?

LA: Well it was received with a lot of humour, which is something that is a characteristic in people in Latin America, but it was also a very strong way of arriving to people and making them conscious of what’s going on.

CD: This is so interesting. From a change making perspective, people respond to humour and playfulness from politicians. That’s the way to get into their –

LA: I think so yeah, it’s the best way.

15: 22



[Audio segment in Spanish].
LA: In 2010 he was a presidential candidate. People fell in love with his transparency, with his simplicity, his honesty. But the corruption of the government was his biggest challenge and the reason why he didn’t win the election. Many corrupted officials began to see Mockus as a threat. At the same time, the other candidate – his opponent Santos – hired political advisers that were known for running dirty campaigns that affect people’s reputation. They succeeded to create lies, intimidation, and bad actions around Mockus.




LA: Another challenge in the country is mining. Communities get very affected in general. In the area of the Caquetá River for example, companies were using mercury, cyanide and other chemicals which poison the water. And there was a woman called María Nidia Becerra Jacanamejoy. She was governor three times. She has been denouncing gold mining projects and has received a lot of threats, she was victim of sexism and racism.


LA: She survived four direct attacks against her life. So the Colombian government assigned her guards 24/7. And that made her work much more difficult, because she cannot move without attracting a lot of attention.




CD: Story of the day, talking about mining: there is a case that recently developed, and this time in a rather positive way. Remember, we need to focus on the positive – be aware of the negative – but focus on what works.
It’s the story of a town in Central Colombia called Marmato. It is situated on a mountain where experts estimate that 14 billion dollars of gold are waiting. Well, not sure the gold is waiting for anything, but let’s say it’s probably the largest untouched gold reserve in the world. in 2008, Canadian company Medoro Resources comes to town and starts buying up the mines and lands. With the help from Colombian Government, they plan to displace 10,000 people, to create an open-pit mine on the top of the mountain and basically move the whole mountain one or two kilometres away so they can get the gold. So we’re talking about five hundred years of heritage in the region, protected environment etc. no one cares. Community resistance, armed groups get in the game, supporting one side or the other, some local leaders are threatened or even disappear. Same old story. We share a few links so you can get the details if you want to.

Now the point is that we just learnt in April that the project will not carry on, it seems. And that’s an important victory for the community: The Canadian company is suing the Colombian government for 700 million dollars, because they are breaching the free trade agreement by not taking care of displacing the community. Land rights were recognised as well as small scale mining activities run by the locals. So, good stuff. The question is…who were the  change agents in the story? And how did they do?

Well, many were involved and it’s hard to summariser in a few sentences. One of the most outspoken leaders against the company was Father José Reinel Restrepo, a Catholic priest. And one week after speaking up in Bogota, he was found dead. So that’s one name that stood out.

Also, it seems the armed group ELN (National Liberation Army) played a role in putting pressure against the  company. That’s a terrorist organisation, according to the US terms – because they attack infrastructure projects, a little bit like the FARCs, but with a slightly different ideology. Yeah…we will not get into discussing who is a terrorist and who is not. But the fact is, ELN was a force of change to take into account in that story. So all in all, a rather positive development, we’ll be following and maybe cook something a bit more detailed in the future.

Unfortunately, you know it, it’s not that often that things turn in favour of the community, so we need to keep talking about this. We need to keep learning from these stories, and do what we can to not forget.




CD: So Liz, we’re wrapping up this mixtape. I have one more question for you about life in Colombia in general, if you can give us a sense of what it’s like to be there.

LA: Well honestly, it’s been long since I have been in Colombia.

CD: Yeah, when were you there?

LA: I was there until 1994.

CD: Oh, so you were there during the tough times, right?

LA: Exactly.

CD: So basically you left when Pablo Escobar got killed, right?

LA: Yes, yes. It’s a tough life. It’s very expensive. For all the citizens of Latin America, their salaries are very low and you have to work very hard to have a good standard of living. It’s not easy. You can be very well educated, have a lot of knowledge, have been to university, but you might end up working as a taxi driver. I think one interesting characteristic of our personality in Latin America is to adapt ourselves in the best way we can to situations.

CD: Thank you for passing by!

LA: Thank you for inviting me, it was my pleasure!

CD: Yes, my friends life is tough around the world and we forget how lucky we are back here in Europe. We are going to do like Colombians now and smile anyway on this last song. It’s my favourite – we are not tired! We crank up the volume, and we’ll see you soon for more green knowledge inspiration and entertainment – keep up the good work in the meantime.


Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of