Tanja T-shirts

She sticks out like a sore thumb but is accepted as one of their own by the armed men and women around her. She has a gun in her hands and is willing to fight to the death for something she calls justice. At first she reminded me of Mowgli, the kid from the Jungle Book. She prefers comparing herself to Che Guevara.

Tanja Nijmeijer, the Dutch guerrillera

That last comparison may be a bit overzealous, but there are definitely some parallels there. Tanja Nijmeijer is a Dutch girl, born in a comfortable middle class family with ample opportunities. Although she had never been to Colombia before the age of 20, she always had a “strong social conscience” according to her mother.[1] Tanja was struck by the poverty and inequality she witnessed during her first visit and it stuck with her. She returned several times, and in the end decided to dedicate her life to the leftist struggle for social justice in Colombia. This lead her straight into the hands of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

The FARC were fighting for social justice and agrarian reform, points Che Guevara fought for and died for in the end. He was also born into a middle class family and had ample educational opportunities, as did Tanja. He studied medicine in Buenos Aires, Argentina and travelled through South America during this period. The widespread poverty and oppression he witnessed, fused with his interest in Marxism, convinced him that the only solution to South and Central America’s problems was armed revolution. [2] His charm and good looks helped him move his way up the hierarchy of the leftist revolution in Cuba, making him an icon and a legend that lives on even today.

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s most iconic photograph

We can not deny their stories are pretty similar. And now she has even set foot on Cuban soil where she is taking part in the peace negotiations, although nobody really knows what that means. Throughout the decades, the stories of violence, kidnappings and drug trafficking stuck to the FARC’s cause and many have come to question their true ideological commitment.

I for one can identify with many of their ideals up to a great extent. None of the social injustice they describe are fictional and I agree that something needs to change in a structural way on many levels. I can even understand that the frustrations of the people that have been denied their rights for so long can turn into rage and some may want to vent this in a violent way. The FARC has however gone so much further than just standing up for human rights. They lost their integrity somewhere along the way and with that, the support of many of the people they were supposedly standing up for.

It took them more than four decades to make their point, but they have got the governments attention now and both parties are ready to negotiate. Tanja’s pretty smile and eloquence is giving the FARC a more sympathetic image and people are eager to know more about her and what moved her to go so far for a cause so alien to her heritage. The world is holding its breath and I have this strong urge to print some T-shirts with Tanja’s image on it and see what happens…

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About Epi B

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. - Albert Einstein
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