"Camino a Baru": road-, place- and community-making in an island of Cartagena Bay, Colombia
Cristina Basso (St Andrews University)
Paper short abstract:
In the island of Baru, Colombia, the construction of a road kindled various expectations and conflicts. Negotiations for the road fostered the re-emergence of distinct memories and materialized often competing ideas of place, community and identity.
Paper long abstract:
Baru is a small island located within the Bay of Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It has been inhabited for centuries by black farmers and fishermen. Its history and its territory have been shaped by processes, practices and understandings articulating extra-territoriality and transgression with re-territorialisation and strategic isolation. The island, once a marginal, "wild", dangerous territory, has been recently re-discovered by sectors of the state and of transnational capital. The construction of a road, to be built over an older track which traversed the island, has kindled distinct memories, expectations, preoccupations and conflicts. Regional administrators, private investors, national institutions and the recently formed black communities' councils, manifested, through their discourses about the road, competing ideas of place, culture and "community". The road, "el camino a Baru", came to echo and embody historical and fantasized links and dis-connections between the island and its regional space. For some villagers the road fuelled desire and imagination, conjuring an imagined island which promised opportunities for employment, consumption and entertainment. Other villagers felt that a new road threatened the island with crime and "dis-order" and could turn it into a distinct, unpredictable, place while gradually pushing people out of a newly crafted touristic paradise. Some of these concerns were reflected in the circulation of rumours about traditional marsh-dwelling ghosts materializing on the road in construction and harassing Moto-taxi drivers and their clients, and about mysterious four- wheels- trucks, allegedly driven by people involved with drugs-trafficking, roaming the island to inspire terror on some of its inhabitants.