This is the story of Barrancabermeja where I spent 8 months of my life in 2004 and 2005 accompanying human rights defenders and organisations with the Peace Brigades International. Barranca (for short) is a very hot and humid place, one sweats 22 hours on a good day, and 24 hours on a bad day. It is the home of the biggest petroleum refinery in Colombia, owned by the state company Ecopetrol. The smell l of sulfur permanently floats in the air. It has seen extensive fighting between the guerrillas and the paramilitaries in its long standing civil war. The city is pretty much under the influence of the AUC paramilitary group, and the FARC and the ELN guerrilla groups remain active in the surrounding countryside, controlling coca plantations the 'campesinos' are forced to grow in order to survive. The city has a very strong trade union movement, with a number of its leaders assassinated in the last few years. Because of the petrol, it is home to various gasoline cartels. Vallenato is the music of region and the most popular folk music in Colombia. You'll hear it in the first two parts of this documentary.
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