Skip to main content

Juan Camilo Portela García


Juan Camilo Portela-García is a final year student of the Doctorate in Social Science Research with a major in Sociology at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, sede Mexico (Flacso-Mexico). He is an anthropologist from the Universidad de Antioquia (Colombia) and holds a master’s degree in Political Science from the same university. His research topics revolve around protest, citizenship, and social change. He has developed studies on peasant identity, peace building, and social movements. He is currently developing his PhD thesis on the 2013 National Agrarian Strike in Colombia as a symbolic action that contested representations of the peasantry.




National Agrarian Strike. The meaning of a peasant protest in a fragmented cultural context


During 2013, a National Agrarian Strike took place in Colombia. This protest expressed the unjust situation of the peasantry and demanded reparation measures. The effective communication of this message had to face strongly rooted representations in Colombian society about the inauthenticity of this actor. Nevertheless, the strike was successful in effectively communicating its message. There was a broad consensus in public opinion on the authentic character of the protest, the importance of peasants for the conformation and reproduction of the nation, and the need to solve the problems of the countryside to end the armed conflict. The solidarity of the citizenry with respect to peasant demands it was due to a process of symbolic coalition that made it possible to build bridges between fragmented cultural structures.

The protest was a public dramatization of conflict at a symbolic level: who has the legitimacy to do what in relation to the countryside. The effectiveness of the peasants in persuading public opinion was central to exerting normative pressure on the government. This pressure was evident in the support of sympathetic citizens and actors belonging to opposing political tendencies. The purpose of this paper is to describe the elements through which it was possible for the National Agrarian Strike, conceived as a symbolic action, to effectively communicate its message during a profound dispute over the meaning of the peasant in Colombia.


Affiliation: Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, México