|A boy examines photos swinging in the wind.|
|Carlos Castaño, el Bueno.|
Carlos Castaño, the name of the leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, is about the most notorious name in Colombian history thanks to the horrific rights abuses he ordered.
But there's another Carlos Castaño, who calls himself 'El Bueno' and hails from the other end of the political spectrum, who is carrying out Bogotá's most prominent one-man human rights campaign.
|Alvaro Uribe, dictator?|
He became a farmer in Tolima. But says that in 2002 he and his family were forced to flee because of violence from right-wing paramilitaries, who may have answered to the other, EVIL Carlos Castaño, who was murdered by other paramilitaries in 2004.
|Pedestrians ponder a photo celebrating Che Guevara.|
"I'm just out here giving a bit of truth to the people," Castaño says.
Castaño says he's been harassed by the police, who have confisticated his photos, searched his home and even accused him of being a terrorist. He considers himself only a truth-teller.
"If this is terrorism," he says, motioning to his photos, "then let's have more of it."
He hasn't had trouble recently, he says. The city's decision to ban cars from this stretch of Ave. Septima helped, as does the fact that Mayor Gustavo Petro was once a guerrilla himself - in his case in the M-19 movement.
Castaño's photos are a grab-bag of images, denouncing human rights violations, social injustices, harm to the environment - even technology (altho Castaño is on Facebook).
A man walks past and demands of Castaño: "Where are the photos of the FARC and ELN guerrillas' human rights violations?"
Castaño smiles back at him. "Don't worry," he replies, "the RCN and Caracol television and radio networks are transmitting plenty of that."
Both men correct. Castaño's photos definitely concentrate on denouncing the government and rightist forces, while celebrating socialist icons, particularly Che Guevara. Contradictorily, one image labels Colombia's democratically-elected Pres. Alvaro Uribe as a 'dictator,' while a nearby photo idolizes Guevara, a leader of Cuba's dictatorship.
Colombia's guerrillas and right-wing forces have all committed grevious human rights abuses. But, while virtually nobody defends the paramilitaries, a significant group of self-deceiving idealists, both here and abroad, persist in celebrating the guerrillas, despite all of their crimes against the poor. For an example, see Mariana, the displaced woman begging across the street from Castaño.
A steady stream of passers-by stop and ponder Castaño's images. His low-tech exhibition likely gets many more visits than most websites about Colombian human rights. For Castaño, who travels around Colombia and even internationally displaying his pictures, the exhibition is not only a statement - it's also a living for him.
|Police clash with demonstrators.|
So, Castaño has joined the ranks of the professional displaced people, whom we see begging on Colombia's sidewalks displaying signs pleading 'Desplazados Por La Violencia. Favor Ayudarnos.' But turning into a lifetime beggar only perpetuates victimization and helplessness. Castaño may be living off of his tragedies, but at least he's also doing something constructive.
|The message laments displacement of peasants.|
|Carlos, a bit ironically, hangs his photos on one of Bogotá's most commercial avenues.|
|Carlos's photo of a policeman photographing Carlos while confisticating his photos.|
|'I fear the day that technology overtakes mankind.' Albert Einstein.|
|Marx, Hitler, Einstein and Fidel Castro. A strange crowd at the Last Supper.|
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours