From the 1980s up to 2014, around 7 million Colombians were victims of forced displacement. This means that approximately, 13% of the population has suffered from this type of violence. Unfortunately, this has placed Colombia in second place globally for highest number of internally displaced people.
The problematic dates to the middle of the XX century when Colombia went through an extremely violent period due to conflicts between liberals and conservatives. In 1964, the FARC and the ELN, followed by several other paramilitary and rebel groups, arose. This would aggravate the problematic in the years to come. In fact, 1980 has been marked as the starting point for the current dynamics of displacement. Among the illegal interests that are tied to displacement in this current form are narcotrafficking and illegal mining (Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica, 2015).
To explore this phenomenon in more detail, I first looked at the general geographic trends. Interestingly, Antioquia is, by far, the department with most displaced events reported. I looked back at the survey I conducted and realized this fact is not widely known. Among Colombians, Antioquia was, on average, ranked 4th after Caqueta, Choco and Putumayo. Only 30% of Colombians ranked it as the department with most amount of victims. Media and, I think, the romanticization of the periphery by people in metropolitan areas, are probably key player in this disparity between perception and reality.
Such a prolonged history of violence has made attacks against the civil population become naturalized to Colombians. Moreover, the breach between the metropolitan areas and the rural parts of the country has produced a certain degree of oblivion towards the tragic events that have happened throughout this historical period.
I got interested in looking at the trends of displacement: were specific municipalities targets of mass displacement, or were people moving in small groups across the country? To answer these questions, I looked at the trends according to the percentage of the municipality's population that was being displaced and the percentage of the department's population that has been displaced through time. I obtained the data for municipality populations from the DANE (National Administrative Department of Statistics) and calculated the percentage of people that were displaced every year for every municipality.
The visualization above was one of the most meaningful ones for me. To my surprise there have been years where up to 12.8% of a department has been displaced (see Choco 1997). These particular moments that stood out for me in the graph led me to search for news that correspond to those years where massive evictions have happened. I scraped data from Colombia's newspaper El Tiempo using Web Scraper and cleaned it using Excel. In the future, I want to visualize that data, possibly conducting a network analysis of the text contained in them to have a deeper look into the different facets of the conflict.
Moreover, this visualization made me think about the role that data plays in the study of history. I certainly believe that using tools like Tableau and data like these in the classroom would be very useful and would lead students to see history from a different angle. These exploratory visualizations are also great sources of questions and new lines of research.
The last part of this project involved looking at the relationship between drugs, specifically cocaine, and displacement. Although it is nationally recognized, the role of drug cartels and of narcotrafficking practices by rebel groups is largely overlooked in international media. Given that the war against drugs has been strongly promoted by the United States, and that this same country has the highest prevalence of cocaine use, I found it relevant to investigate this relationship.
I used data obtained from the ODC (National Drug Observatory) and the UN Office of Drug and Crime to build a dataset with the numbers of hectares of coca harvested each year in each department in Colombia.
I looked at the number of hectares of coca harvested over time and compared it to the number of displacement cases by year. The trend is apparent, however, the timeline shown above makes it obvious that the correlation should exist. I wanted, then, to dig deeper into these dynamics. For that, I looked at the relationship between crops and displacement at the municipal level: were people being displaced in the same municipalities where coca was being cultivated?
In the maps presented below, color maps the number of people expelled from that municipality, while size tracks the number of hectares cultivated. To put it simply, big green circles would prove that people were being displaced by groups that wanted to harvest coca. Although I have not performed statistical analysis on these data, this trend does not seem to emerge. My theory for this apparent trend is that the different cartels and rebel groups depend on field workers to for coca harvesting. Increased coca production is tied to a civilian population being there to harvest it.