ENCANTO III: Conflict As Disappearance and Displacement — Historicized
So I resume: Encanto takes place mid-20th century. Possibly earlier but could be into the 1970s. Doubtful the homes had plumbing. I didn’t see any cars. A timeline could identify the circumstances of Abuelo Pedro’s disappearance.
It’s early December now and I think of the 1928 Masácre de las bananeras, where a disputed number of striking workers and their families were gunned down by the Colombian Army on behalf of the United Fruit Company, now Chiquita Brands International. The martyrs were composed of Black, Brown, and Indigenous bodies. Some were Marxists who studied in the Soviet Union, while the killers fall into the legacy of the School of the Americas. In Cien años, García Marquez wrote that the rail cars overflowed with corpses and were emptied into the sea.
I think Pedro’s disappearance like occurred earlier, during la Guerra de los mil días — another semblance of the enduring conflict between conservatism and liberalism. This war took place at the turn of the 20th century, pitting disempowered liberals against a new conservative government. The conservative victory meant consolidation of the 1886 Constitution which affirmed Colombia as a nation “católica, apostólica, y romana”. This refrain resonates with most Colombians of the 20th century, until the secular 1991 Constitution, obtained after another 50 years of peasant revolt and civil conflict.
Colombia is a history of violence.
While I recognize la Guerra de los mil días, few others will. Although this film is a love letter to Colombian culture — without dissecting the history, we forget that this is a story of Colombians visiting violence upon other Colombians. The hint at the beginning reminds us that Colombia is a landscape embroiled in civil war since its inception. And, further, that despite the beauty of the film, Colombia remains a place where groups systematically displace, massacre, murder, disappear, and kidnap other Colombians. “Disappear” is an active verb — an action that one does to another. It is akin to the virulent epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Femmes (MMIW). In Argentina, they used to disappear you by throwing you from a helicopter into el Río de la plata. Chile. Guatemala. Aún faltan 43.
I dwell on the depiction of men on horseback because, in Colombia, towns have been displaced through violence well into the 21st-century. This strategy, employed by terrorists across the political spectrum, advances economic interests including the cultivation of illicit and non-illicit substances, or advancing social, economic, and political projects.
Which brings me to a fundamental question: ¿irán a decir que fueron guerrilla o paramilitares? Critics might remark, “no! Guerrilla and paramilitaries are strictly a late 20th century phenomenon with discrete genealogies of their own”!
While I highlight that: (A) armed groups of mostly able-bodied white men committing violence to advance European principles including: landownership, religion, race, class, gender and hierarchy have existed in Colombia for centuries. Paramilitaries like las AUC were only a recent manifestation of an older conflict; and, although las AUC allegedly demobilized, elements still assassinate civilian FARC leaders and members to this day. Further, Operación Orión was perpetrated by the state in 2002, and it receives attention because it took place inside Medellin.
The entity that displaced Alma and disappeared Pedro could very well have been the state itself. Imagine if Disney produced a movie that scrutinized human rights abuses by the Colombian government? No. Instead set it 120 years ago and only show silhouettes. Maybe the audience will move past it without question.
(B) arms raised in the advancement of progressivism, liberalism, and, more recently, Marxist Lenin-ism and Maoism, also have a long history, which includes a legacy of forcefully displacing marginalized, often indigenous communities.
I cried here. Because I carry trauma of grandparents fleeing their burning home.
This excerpt comes from a 5-part series that I wrote in the wake of Disney’s release. The film inspired me to tap into my creativity. Join and subscribe to keep up as I share over the next month.