Jorge Zalamea, the “Department of Nariño,” and Adventures in the Colombian Countryside

Friday, January 8, 2016: 3:30 PM
International Ballroom B (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Rebecca Anne Tally, Cornell University
In 1936, Colombian journalist Jorge Zalamea was named Minister of National Education and later the director of the Commission on Rural Culture. In that capacity, he embarked on an extensive tour of the southwestern department of Nariño. He later published a “Sociological Interpretation” of the department’s human, natural, and economic conditions in Colombia’s main liberal newspaper, El Tiempo. Zalamea’s observations of this “isolated” department were not uncharacteristic of the time period, however; various newspapers and magazines seemed to discover the Colombian countryside for the first time in the 1930s, publishing a variety of feature stories on rural life. In particular, Cromos, a relatively new publication focused on art, culture, politics, and society, regularly introduced urban readers to remote corners of Colombia’s national territory through National Geographic style photo essays and feature stories. The language and images used in these articles not only shaped public debates about national development policies, agrarian reform, and rural education, they also had longer-term impact on the country’s emerging class of professional agronomists.
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