Ricardo Velasco is a social documentarian working at the interface between cultural and memory studies, and visual anthropology. His research encompasses violence, trauma, human rights, and transitional justice in contemporary Colombia. Ricardo’s work has focused on the ethical and political implications of the use of audiovisual media for the construction of historical memory and in the political potential of the uses of new media technologies among organizations of victims of the Colombian armed conflict. As a fellow of the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, (2013–2014) he produced the documentary “After the Crossfire: Memories of Violence and Displacement,” a testimonial account of the emergence and escalation of the armed conflict in the north Pacific Coast of Colombia. He is currently pursuing a PhD in the Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies (LLILAS) at The University of Texas at Austin. His academic merits include a MA in Social Documentation from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a MA in Cultural Studies from Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia.
Velasco conducted fieldwork in Isla Grande, Islas del Rosario, Colombia, between June and August of 2018, focusing on the project Sustainable Settlements for Peace, a collaboration between the grassroots organization CASA (Council for Sustainable Settlements of Latin America) and the Foundation Mentes en Transicion, with the Council of Black Communities of Islas del Rosario. Mentes en Transicion and CASA actively promote sustainability through action-based projects with civil society initiatives in Colombia, focusing strongly on the promotion of social and environmental justice. Their initiative Sustainable Settlements for Peace aims to empower historically marginalized communities to achieve their goals of autonomy and sustainable development, and to contribute to the construction of peace in rural Colombia by leveraging local knowledges and sharing practical skills for sustainability and peaceful coexistence. Its implementation in Isla Grande has included different pedagogical and community engagement processes with agroecology and conflict resolutions workshops, as well as organizational efforts for improving an eco-tourism model developed by local families. Despite the fact that the granting of a collective land titled to the community in 2014 – after a decade of legal struggles led by the local council – has created an organization process resulting in a cohesive social program for autonomous development, the community still faces many challenges in a contexts of state neglect. Basic needs remain unsatisfied, including proper health center, water and electricity, waste management systems, technical education, amongst others. Ricardo’s research aims at documenting the impact the initiative is having within the community and how it is mobilizing the potential of local human and natural resources, and the funding opportunities opened by the transitional justice conjuncture. He will explore the potential of the initiative for revitalizing community ties and creating inclusive opportunities for sustainable economic development in Isla Grande, as well as a culture of peace and solidarity.
Ricardo has included this initiative as a case study for his dissertation “Cultural Ecologies of Symbolic Reparation in Transitional Colombia”, which explores the links between cultural initiatives, sustainability programs, reparation and reconciliation, particularly among black communities and other ethnic minorities in rural areas of Colombia where state neglect and forced displacement have deepened historical social inequalities and marginalization. Through this case study, Ricardo aims to understand how practices of peace and reconciliation can produce new articulations of social and human rights mobilizations among ethnic minorities to promote inclusion, social and environmental justice.