Marching with Torches: Mass Politics in Colombia on the Eve of La Violencia, 1930–49

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 9:10 AM
Ontario Room (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Thomas J. Williford, Southwest Minnesota State University
Inspired by the mass marches and rallies organized by political parties in Europe, beginning in the 1930s leaders of Colombia’s two traditional parties (as well as of other political movements and of the Church) sought to bring the masses into the streets and plazas to demonstrate loyalty to their cause.  These events served to physically include the rank and file in the movement, while showing the opposing side that the spiritual force of ideas was matched with physical force.  Political (or religious) leaders emphasized in speeches not only the superiority of their ideology, but also the martyrs of their cause, encouraging a similar attitude of sacrifice on the part of the assembled faithful.  Participants in these gatherings felt included in a larger purpose, a larger network, a larger community, reaffirming that they were not alone in their beliefs and in their identity.  The opposing side understood that a demonstration implied a show of force, and prepared counterdemonstrations and acts of sabotage—rallies often ended with shootings and street brawling, with the dead and wounded being added to the list of martyrs.  All sides prepared for and anticipated violence, creating a climate of expectation that was fulfilled when widespread political violence broke out in 1946.
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