Modernization's Architects: Cold War Agricultural Development and Bodily Resistance in Colombia's Cauca Valley

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 10:00 AM
Salon 7 (Palmer House Hilton)
Amanda Waterhouse, Indiana University
On February 26, 1971, Colombian police and armed forces entered the campus of the Universidad del Valle in Cali. They successfully extracted students who had occupied the rectory, but a rally later that day resulted in a deadly confrontation with the troops, who killed one student and wounded many others. The bloody incident was the culmination of a decade-long struggle over self-determination that played out in physical and environmental terms. The Cali students wanted to direct their own institution, and they expressed their outrage physically—with their bodies, in the university’s buildings and city streets. The movement rebelled against both Colombian government power and outside funding from United States government and philanthropic entities, which focused heavily on agriculture. Development entities relied on the university to create experts, especially architects, who were to construct the research laboratories and stations to produce high-yielding seeds, food security, and more modern agricultural economics.

The paper examines the longer history of United States government and Rockefeller and Ford Foundation agricultural development in the Cauca Valley region during the 1960s and 1970s in order to show its attempts to structure physical space. I argue that architecture students, many of whom led the student uprising, had both the technical skill necessary to understand the spatial imperatives of development and an artistic sensibility that helped them disrupt its workings. Through street theater and protest, the students resisted the public order on which international development relied. They refused a US-led vision of human health through agricultural scientific food security and, for a moment, toppled the police control in which the US government had heavily invested. The dual threat that the students posed to the pillars of health and order helps explain the violent government response and the centrality of environmental structuring to the history of Cold War international development.

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