Colombia’s Semana magazine presents an interesting media compilation on the notorious ‘Bogotazo’ riots that exploded 60 years ago today. It explores the assassination of Liberal politician and presidential candidate, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, April 9, 1948; an event which many mark the tipping point into a ghastly era—La Violencia. The disorder quickly spilled from the mob-filled streets of Bogotá to swaths of rural departments surrounding its central throne, producing carnage in ungoverned sectors of the country.
The interactive presentation features: radio transmissions, photo montages, an interesting clip from the History Channel documentary covering the mayhem, and Gaitán’s political dialog, among many other insights.
Interestingly enough, a young Fidel Castro witnessed the chaos unfolding and had met with Gaitán only a few days prior to organize a student rally. Also, the American professor and author David Bushnell was present and chronicles the experience in his excellent work, The Making of Modern Colombia.
This anniversary comes as a timely reminder that these tensions still carry overtones that echo deeply in contemporary Colombian society. The dichotomies of class and political orientation remain today just as real sixty years in passing. Even so, the history plays out as much in its epic nature as its conspiracy. To this day it is not known whether the would-be assassin, Juan Roa Sierra, actually perpetrated the incident, or whether he was merely a scapegoat beaten to his death by those thirsty for vengeance.
Every crisis charges a pariah, but perhaps as evidence enough today in Colombia, this zeal often perpetuates tomorrow’s conflict.
Update: Another comprehensive presentation of the event is also available online at El Espectador, featuring great clips, narratives, and historical information. Definitely worth the look.