"One day the paramilitaries came to my place; they said “Either you sell us your farm, or we'll buy it from your widow.” We took all our stuff and we left. They never paid for the land. They gave me some rubber checks... " (Grajales, 2011, p.771)”
Colombia suffered more than 50 years of armed conflict in which guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug cartels battled each other and the state, causing the second biggest population of internally displaced persons worldwide.
To set something against the massive extent of the problem, former president Juan Manuel Santos in 2011 initiated the "Victims and Land Restitution Law". Its purpose is the material and legal return of “stolen” land to to its former owners. The program promises a return in conditions of safety, sustainability and dignity.
While the Colombian government is being hailed by the international community for its legislation, returning farmers bear the burden of rebuilding what they have lost.
Their invisible faces constitute the center of this work. For them, the land makes up for a big part of their identity: “A farmer without land is nothing”, as Pablo puts it. For him the return is connected to big hopes.
However, even though they feel gratitude for the recognition of their situation, these hopes often stay unfulfilled. Upon return, farmers are confronted with threats to their lives, traumatic memory, water scarcity, a lack of housing, and an overall poor income. Nevertheless, farmers keep fighting for a life in peace. "