A bird that helps create sustainable communities in Montes de María


‘If love with hunger doesn’t last, peace with hunger doesn’t either’ is one of the affirmations of Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas, a social leader. He has dedicated a significant part of his life to promoting a culture of peace in Colombia. The following text presents an abbreviated version of the model of sustainable communities that has been implemented for decades in Montes de María. Lee este artículo en español.


By Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas [Sembrandopaz Director]
Translated by Lillian Hall
Edited by Daniela Moreno Ramírez

We believe that something as serious as peace cannot be left only in the hands of the government. The government does not have the capacity to build peace. If it could, it would have done so two hundred years ago. Citizens are those who can build peace: an organized, informed civil society that mobilizes, does lobbying, and studies. 

We say that we need to build sustainable communities and that sustainability is like a bird that flies. It has two wings. One wing we call political culture because people need to understand politics. People have to recover the beautiful art of realizing their dreams- and this cannot be confused with partisanship or simply with elections. People have to learn conflict resolution, human rights, transformation, reconciliation, restorative justice, and a culture of peace. All that is key. We have to understand the state in order to make demands of it.

But like we say in Colombia ‘love with hunger doesn’t last’, so we believe that peace with hunger doesn’t either. For that reason, it is imperative to have this other wing of the bird which we call Economics for Good Living: how people learn to understand what wealth is, how to generate it, and understand that money represents wealth, but isn’t wealth. So if money isn’t wealth, then the lack of money, therefore, isn’t poverty. 

Here we see that poverty is more the inability of peoples to take advantage of and well utilize their resources. For that reason, we promote organic, sustainable development. 

But we say that the bird can’t stay in the air flying, so it has to land, and it lands on two feet.

One of these feet has two toes. The first is that of ethics: the internal commitment to achieve something rather than just external morals. Our people have an ethical commitment, on the one hand, to non-violence. In particular, youth should never again be trained for war, nor should they become victimizers. Another ethical commitment is to respect nature and understand that if future generations won’t have a place to live, why struggle for rights?

The other toe is that of spirituality: the concept that we all make up part of everything. We must work the spirit because when one feels at peace, one can work. Many people confuse religion with spirituality, but spirituality is far beyond religion. There are many families in Colombia whose souls are broken, above all, due to the armed conflict. Therefore, we need to work primarily on memory, trauma, and reconstruction.

The other foot also has two toes: one is aesthetics because one must work on beauty, and the other is art because without art and without beauty it is impossible for a people to transform. Through culture, one can look at memory and find a language that is capable of transmitting that different, symbolic thought. Therefore, we accompany the youth in such a way that they can work on music, poetry, gaita (a local musical instrument), and theater.

And with this ethical commitment to non-violence, the young people are organizing so that the State –which prepares young men for war through its compulsory military service– will also educate them on peace-building. Using the same financial resources that they use for war, we can create a capable team of youth trained to build peace. 

With these four perspectives –political culture, sustainable development, ethics and spirituality, and aesthetics and art– we have a holistic proposal to take to the communities. That is what we are doing as Sembrandopaz.

The people really want peace. Sometimes they don’t understand very well what is said, but people want to live better and aspire to be better people in general. Therefore, when they see options, and opportunities to transform themselves, to transform their families, they are ready to get to work.

Once people grasp how all of this we are talking about will directly benefit them and that it is not just a theory, they themselves decide to participate in this transformation and thus they will be lookouts for hope.

Este artículo ha sido traducido del original en español por Lillian Hall y editado por Daniela Moreno.

Para conocer más sobre los Montes de María, visita: https://diariodepaz.com/portfolio/especial-montes-de-maria-colombia/

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En Diario de Paz Colombia pensamos al país de manera constructiva. Difundimos textos que invitan a conocer y a reflexionar sobre la realidad nacional y que, desde diversas áreas y perspectivas, promueven una cultura de paz. ¡Escribe con nosotros! Envía tu colaboración a editores@diariodepaz.com. Leer nos une.

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