We understand the concept of historical memory as a tool that can be used to rebuild Colombia, and have implemented this as an institutional framework for the Armado Armero Foundation during more than ten years of its operation..
What was Armero like? This is not just a question asked by those who lived in Armero, but a question that concerns Colombians and foreigners alike. How can we evoke the memory of the thriving cotton town that it once was in 1985 in an area that is now more widely associated with graves, state neglect, and heartache?
Many of us armeritas feel distressed when people ask where we are from. Some hesitate or squirm; others sweat; still others become nervous, sad or brooding. And the answer is always the same: “I was from Armero”. We do not respond in the present tense, like most people whose home town still exists. For those of us who were born and raised there, the only thing we have left of Armero is located in our imagination, ignited by the images evoked by personal accounts from the elderly and the oral memory of those who survived that night of November 13, 1985, when everything disappeared from that town in the north of Tolima.
How can we honor the dead without funerals or a coffin to bury? How do you determine the fate of the body? Rituals surrounding the trauma associated with death can make this more bearable. However, in the case of Armero, there was no way to prepare the dead for their fate or to prepare the survivors for their tragedy. For this reason, the Foundation has organized various activities in honor of the victims. One of our forthcoming projects, called Callejón del Duelo, will display photographs of our relatives who died during the disaster. The landslide not only devastated an entire area, but also shattered the community’s sense of collective identity and belonging in the place where they had built their homes and lived their lives. As a result, armeritas continue to carry this unresolved grief on their shoulders.
As such, this section seeks to draw attention to the work that has been done to reconstruct the memory of Armero. It intends to pay tribute to those who are no longer physically with us but who are here in our memories. It gives us the chance to mourn and keep the memory of the tragedy alive.