The World Rafting Championships in Valtellina introduced us to a significant South American team, portrayed by Giulia Fassina

The Peace Accords, signed in Havana, Cuba in 2016, between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP), mark the end of a conflict that lasted over 50 years, resulting in 220,500 deaths and over 7 million displaced people. The accords have led to the demobilization of 13,609 members of the revolutionary group. With the end of hostilities, individuals who participated in the Peace Process now face decisions concerning their future, such as where to live and how to support themselves.

In Caquetá, Colombia, on the banks of Pato River, a group of ex-guerrillas has discovered a novel approach to reintegrating into civilian life: using rafting as a tool for promoting peace and reconciliation. Equipped with a raft, paddles, helmets, and life jackets, they embark on a self-training process with the objective of launching an ecotourism project. Their aim is to enhance the surrounding area and transform it into a destination that reflects positive changes in the region and country.

With the assistance of individuals interested in the situation in the Miravalle, like Mauricio Artiñano, a former United Nations official in Colombia, and Rafael ‘Rafa’ Gallo, a legendary Costa Rican rafter, the people involved in the project received technical and federation-certified training to create the first team of rafting guides. Caguan Expeditions was established by individuals involved in the Peace Accords, local community members, and social entrepreneurs from various regions of Colombia.

Formal certifications were followed by an invitation, as guests of honor, to the International Rafting Federation’s World Rafting Championships in Tully, Australia in 2019. That’s when Remando por la Paz was conceived as the world’s first team composed of individuals who have directly participated in the conflict, as well as those who have been affected by it. 

“After returning from Australia, the federation invited us to host the first-ever national rafting championship in Colombia. It was an unprecedented event because it was the first time it was held there. As if this place, now after the war, was a place to do sports, to build peace.”

In November 2019, together with the community of the vereda Miravalle and with the support of Caguán Expeditions, the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán and the regional government of Caquetá, the team organized the first national rafting championship Remando por la Paz – Paddling for Peace. A team of athletes, a sporting event, but above all a commitment to which these people dedicate themselves every day.

“Peace is signed between two parties, but peace belongs to everyone.” 

The event is attended by delegates from government agencies and the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. Twenty teams from six regions and a delegation from Costa Rica, with a total of 95 athletes competing in four categories. 

From an initiative born of the will to be actors of social transformation through sport, in record time, the Remando por la Paz team, formally constituted as a sports club in 2020, can compete and organize regional as well as national events. In 2022, they won third place in the National Rafting Championship in Santander, qualifying for the 2023 World Rafting Championship in Sondrio.

In November, the group hosted the Remando por la Paz Festival, now in its fourth year, in the same Class 3 river where they first tried this peace-building experience.

“This river used to be a border, a dividing line, because on one side was the guerrilla and on the other the army. Today it is a river that unites us, because we went down it together.”

Remando por la Paz members: Sebastián, Erika Gamboa Aroca, Mayerli Gamboa Aroca, José David Gamboa, Hermidines Linares, Carlos Ariel García.

Photo credits:

Giulia Fassina

Text by

Daniele Riboli Hincapié