A tireless defender of the Colombia removed from headlines, where farmers are protagonists, so too, the displaced and combatants of an internal conflict, writer Alfredo Molano’s pen was prolific and humane. Besides taking to the field notebooks, a camera and obligatory hammock, Molano was a chronicler of the Colombian condition even when not traversing rainforests to reach remote communities controlled by guerrilla.
Molano’s journalist principles were uncompromising even if his enemies were powerful landowners and political clans protected by their private armies. Despite multiple death threats and two years in exile, Molano always proved that the true power of the word is to give voice to uncomfortable truths in a country where far too often journalists take centre stage, not the vulnerable.
Alfredo Molano was most at home in the countryside of La Calera, close enough to Bogotá, but where at the end of the day he could retreat to the valleys and mountains of childhood memories. Accompanied during his life’s journey by two life partners – Marta Arenas and Gladys Jimeno – his sister María Elvira and brother Alfonso as well as children and grandchildren, Alfredo Molano’s legacy was as much about denouncing injustice as it was about opening paths to dialogue among bitter enemies: the Colombian Government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla. And there were very few intellectuals the country’s politicians and guerrilla commanders could “call on” for an opinion regarding peace and how to reach a negotiated settlement even if what Molano had to say to them did not align with their objectives.
Alfredo Molano was a testimonial journalist who based his decades of research on personal stories of those affected by political violence in both the countryside and marginalized urban populations. While for readers of his weekly column in El Espectador, Molano was clearly on the left of the newspaper’s editorial line, Alfredo’s writings were based on experience, the urgency to “be there” even if the journey by canoe or horseback (one of his favorite pastimes), entailed great risks. From his student days at Universidad Nacional where he earned his degree in sociology in 1971, to years in Paris post-student-uprisings at École Pratique des Hautes Etudes, “Alfredito” is best remembered among friends for another uncompromising aspect – his daily attire of mochila, blujín and white sneakers, even when receiving some of the country’s most prestigious literary and journalistic awards.
On March 3, the cultural section of the Banco de la República is hosting a virtual reading of the third chapter of one of Alfredo’s most important works “Los años del tropel” accompanied by family and friends. The Central Bank chose the date to mark his birth and Day of the Holy Cross which even though he wasn’t a church-going Catholic, he always considered himself a religious person. The live streaming of a book that tells the origins of rural violence in Colombia known as La Violencia takes place at 10:00 a.m on the Facebook Page @banrepcultural
Virtual guests are invited to post their own readings of Alfredo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #HomenajeAMolano.
Alfredo Molano died on October 31, 2019.