‘The police have never protected life’: Cizañero

Artists have played an active role in the ongoing national strike in Colombia. Sasha Yumbila Paz spoke to digital artist Cizañero about his illustrations and the role of art and culture in building a new Colombia.

June 22, 2021 by Sasha Yumbila Paz

Since the last presidential elections in Colombia in 2018, the artist Cizañero has used the power of the pseudonym and his graphic design skills to condemn the “return of Uribe to power” and with him the State crimes and rampant corruption that has devastated the country. These are among the causes of the social uprising that began on April 28, 2021.

The digital art of the 29-year-old resident of Ibagué springs from and reflects the discontent of the youth in response to the inhumane system. This work has been published in cultural magazines, on social media, and made into murals. As he himself says “the situation of the youth is critical, we don’t have opportunities for study, work, and the only way to go forward is to express the nonconformity in all ways possible to reach a national consensus and create a path where we can see a clearer future.”

Cizañero represents and interprets the political social problems in Colombia. His critical illustrations have special value.

Sasha Yumbila Paz: RAE and Oxford Languages define cizaña as “a thing that harms something else” and that “it does it frequently”. Why do you sign your illustrations as Cizañero?

Cizañero: The pseudonym comes from this definition given by the RAE and Oxford Languages, and what I am trying to do is damage and destroy the politicians that I believe are an obstacle for real change in this country and to protect myself from possible attacks and threats that I have already been subjected to. It is also to give some mysticism and intrigue to know who is behind these illustrations.

S.Y: What motivates you to do digital illustration?

CÑ: There are many motivations, but primarily social injustice in the country and mass media of misinformation that essentially put the population that consumes this media into a state of catalepsy, especially through news media. This brings me to create, develop and show images of the current crude reality, in addition to adding my grain of sand to help build a better country with a critical vision.

S.Y: How do you define your work; humor, critique or something else?

CÑ: My work can be defined as activism, political satire, sarcasm and irony, but I also do it with a lot of poetic elements to build conscience in this country.

S.Y: Why have you focused on politics?

CÑ: I think that traditional politics of the “moderate” and fascist right-wing have destroyed our country and we should all do something to help alleviate us of this disgraceful group that has caused us so much harm.

S.Y: Do you do any prior research to do your illustrations?

CÑ: Of course, I always refer to independent news websites, columnists, and the newspapers in the country to verify information and have a general idea of what is happening. All of this preparatory work gives me a lot of inspiration to create new pieces.

S.Y: What do you want to achieve with your illustrations?

CÑ: I want to sensitize and open common people’s eyes and minds who see my art; that when the time comes they have some information to vote well. This means that they can in some way think, evaluate and have their own critical analysis that transgresses the status quo.

The aim behind every illustration is to make it a pedagogical exercise that is maybe a little aggressive but clear. The desire to transform the country motivates me.

S.Y: What kind of technique do you use?

CÑ: I use two, one is digital illustration on the Illustrator program and the other is a photo-montage that I do pulling together different images to create some realism and I do that on Photoshop.

Discussion about the illustrations

S.Y: Why do you define Colombia as the largest mass grave in the world?

CÑ: In this illustration I wanted to show the catastrophe that the uribista legacy represents, leaving in its wake the badly named False Positives, massacres, and disappeared. There are so many figures that have been revealed and even those will always be insufficient to have complete clarity about all of the deaths caused by the Armed Conflict in Colombia. Since the signing of the Peace Agreement in 2016 until December 10, 2020, 1,088 social leaders and human rights defenders were assassinated. This is a catastrophic figure that Indepaz gave us which corresponds to just four long years. From there we think how many more deaths have occurred throughout the nearly 60-year conflict. This country has mass graves in places across national territory which makes it earn the title of “the biggest mass grave in the world.”

S.Y: One of your illustrations says “if they are going to kill us let it be in the struggle.” What is this struggle?

CÑ: On the streets protesting in a peaceful and sustained way. I make the reference to death because the police in the marches have never protected life. In every mobilization their squadron of death takes a life and they enjoy full impunity with these crimes. We remember the deaths of Nicolás Neira, Dilan Cruz, Javier Ordóñez and now Santiago Murillo [along with many others]. It took nearly 16 years for them to try low-ranking police officers in the death of Nicolás Neira, and as always they have not tried or condemned any high-ranking officials of the police or anyone politically responsible.

Even with the constant killings in the protests, we are standing up defending our rights and freedoms at the risk that they might kill us.

S.Y: In this context of National Strike, we have seen that some of the instruments that allow us to peacefully express our ideas like with murals, trends on social media etc. have been censored. If we go out onto the streets and we mobilize peacefully, they kill us and repress us with state terrorism, like in the case of Lucas Villa in the city of Pereira and of the 50 [at the time this article was written, the number now is as high as 78] others across the country. Do you think that even in this context they are not listening to us?

CÑ: In a dictatorial and authoritarian state like the one we are in, censoring murals, social media, assassinations and violations will continue taking place. However, we are still able to widely share the information: on May 12, the day that the police assassinated Santiago Murillo it was very hard to hear his mother cry and scream over the death of her son.

I was inspired by this and made the image of Colombia crying tears of blood, which went viral across the world. I was not able to even measure the magnitude, I only saw that when Alejandro Sanz published the image on Twitter I realized the reach of social media and we were able to unite Colombians across the world in one voice to say: #SOSColombia. Many international organizations also made declarations against the government and the criminal escalation.

S.Y: What is the vision of Cizañero about peace?

CÑ: My vision is that peace should have three basic elements: all should be able to access free healthcare, be able to educate ourselves in what we want, and have a dignified home. In summary, be able to life with dignity. We raise the demand of the word dignity!

S.Y: What opinions and reactions do people have to your work?

CÑ: Many have a strong reaction to how explicit the message is, others maybe look at the quality, connection with the image, we could say that I have grown quickly, in the sense of trying to connect with the feelings that people have, to generate this feeling with people (that every day is more indignation). Our political reality gives me a lot of inspiration to create illustrations that people have liked a lot. We could say that I have known how to read and interpret the context.

S.Y: Where can people find your illustrations?

CÑ: On Twitter you can find me at @Cizanaparatodos, on Instagram: @cizanaparatodos and on Facebook: @CizaÑero – @Cizanero.ilustrador.

In these moments of social uprising, I want to recognize all of the artists from different disciplines that have participated in the activities of the National Strike, raising awareness and condemning the crimes against humanity committed against those that use the legitimate right to social protest to manifest their nonconformity.

In memory of all the victims of state terrorism, to those who continue on the streets for a dignified life.

[This list has not been updated and is by no means an exhaustive list of all those killed since the beginning of the strike.]

1:      Jeisson García. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

2:      Cristian Alexis Moncayo Machado. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

3:      Pol Stiven Sevillano Perea. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

4:      Charlie Parra Banguera. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

5:      Michel David Reyes Pérez. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Bogotá.

6:      Brian Gabriel Rojas López. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said La Virginia.

7:      Marcelo Agredo Inchima. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

8:      Miguel Ángel Pinto Molina. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

9:      Dadimir Daza Correa. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Yumbo.

10:     Daniel Felipe Azcárate Falla. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

11:     Einer Alexander Lasso Chará. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

12:     Maria Jovita Osorio. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

13:     Edwin Villa Escobar. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

14:     José Augusto Ortiz Cortés. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

15:     Kevin Yair González Ramos. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

16:     Jesús Flórez. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Pereira.

17:     Rosemberg Duglas. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

18:     Yinson Andrés Angulo Rodríguez. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

19:     Santiago Andrés Murillo. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Ibagué.

20:     Brayan Niño. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Madrid.

21:     Jefferson Alexis Marín Morales. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Medellín.

22:     Santiago Moreno Moreno. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

23:     Jhonatan Arlex Quiñones. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

24:     Andrés Angulo. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

25:     N.N. Hombre en el Parque de Jovita sin identificación Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

26:     Kevin Antoni Agudelo Jiménez. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

27:     Nicolás Guerrero. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

28:     José Emilson Ambuila. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

29:     Harold Antonio Rodríguez. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

30:     Mauricio González Escobar. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

31:     N.N. barrio La Luna. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

32:     N.N Aparece en vídeo en Siloé. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

33:     Wenceslao Solis. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Yumbo.

34:     Javier Uribe. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

35:     Héctor Morales. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Pereira.

36:     Elvis Vivas. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Madrid.

37:     Dylan Fabriany Barbosa León. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Bogotá.

38:     Daniel Alejandro Zapata. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Bogotá.

39:     Lucas Villa Velásquez. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Pereira.

40:     Luis Hernán Ladino Bañot. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

41:     Sebastián Quintero Múnera. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Popayán.

42:     Jhon Alexander Yotengo Chaguendo. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Yumbo.

43:     Michael Joan Vargas López. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Yumbo.

44:     Maicol López Cano. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Yumbo.

45:     Angie Johanna Valencia Ordóñez. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

46:     Julián Vallejo. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Tuluá.

47:     Cristian David Orozco. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Tuluá.

48:     Vladimir Steven. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

49:     Johan Ricardo Idrobo. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

50:     John Erick Larrahondo. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Cali.

51:     Breiner Chud Arango. —Not here, killed by state terrorism—said Candelaria. [2]

Assassinated in the context of the National Strike in Colombia which began on April 28, 2021.

***

[1]     Fabián Sanabria. Las2Orillas – #PelandoElCobre : ¡Uribe : Pilatos!. https://www.las2orillas.co/pelandoelcobre-uribepilatos/

[2]http://www.indepaz.org.co/victimas-de-violencia-homicida-en-el-marco-del-paro-nacional/

Sasha Yumbila Paz is a story teller, environmentalist, humanitarian and independent journalist as well as lover of audiovisual creation. @SashaYumbilaPaz [email protected]

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