17 La Niña—Reconciliation

1. Synopsis

La Niña recounts Belky´s difficult path to reintegrate into civilian life. After being kidnapped by the Colombian guerrillas as a child and becoming one of their child-soldiers, Sara (her name in the guerrillas) is detained by the Colombian Army and sent to a juvenile reintegration center. From this moment on, Belky struggles to build a normal life for a girl her age: she regains relationships with her family, studies to go to college, goes out with friends, and falls in love. Her efforts are threatened by the prejudices of society against child-soldiers, as well as by the harassment of former guerilla comrades and threats of corrupt military officials, who are determined that Belky should not reveal their criminal actions.

2. About the place. Geographical context

Mapa de Colombia[1]

3. About the topic. Peace Agreements in Colombia

On November 24, 2016, the Colombian government, under the presidency of Juan Manuel Santos, and the guerrilla group FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo/Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army) signed a peace agreement that ended an internal armed conflict that had lasted since the formation of the FARC-EP in the 1960s and that had implicated guerrilla groups, paramilitaries, and national army. This agreement was preceded by previous failed attempts, extensive negotiations and a first agreement that was rejected in a popular vote. Its implementation has also been hampered by the persistence in the armed struggle of various groups, by drug trafficking, by political differences around the peace agreement, and by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Negotiations for this peace agreement began under the presidency of Juan Manuel Santos, who hold government from August 2010 to August 2018. Negotiations to end the conflict had already been attempted before between the government and the guerrillas without reaching an agreement. In his article on the topic, Rafael Grasa points out three previous formal negotiations: “en La Uribe (bajo la presidencia de Betancur); Caracas y Tlaxcala (bajo la presidencia de Gaviria) y El Caguán (bajo la presidencia de Pastrana).” (“In La Uribe —under the presidency of Betancur—; Caracas and Tlaxcala—under the presidency of Gaviria—and El Caguán—under the presidency of Pastrana”; 4). The same author notes that there is evidence that, in the last two years of Álvaro Uribe´s presidency and with Juan Manuel Santos as defense minister, “se diseñó una agenda y un proceso de negociación que no llegó a convertirse en un proceso concreto.” (“An agenda and a negotiation process were designed although they did not materialize into an actual [peace] process”; 4).

The enactment of the Ley de Víctimas y Restitución de Tierras (Victims and Land Restitution Law) in 2011, which establishes assistance and reparation measures for conflict victims, was seen as an expression of the pro-dialogue intentions of President Santos. The FARC-EP responded with a similar attitude. Between February and August 2012, delegates from the Colombian government and the FARC-EP met in Cuba to explore the possibilities of an agreement to resolve the conflict. The result of these meetings was the General Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace. This document decides sensitive issues in any peace negotiations, such as, the negotiation agenda—those issues that will be negotiated—, as well as the procedures, places and intermediary governments (Cuba, Norway, Venezuela and Chile in this specific peace negotiation).

With the General Agreement as a guide, formal negotiations begin in October 2012 in Oslo, Norway, and will continue in Havana, Cuba. This phase lasts for several years and will conclude with the signing of the Final Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace. The Final Agreement is signed on August 25, 2016 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, with the condition that it will be submitted to popular referendum. As Grasa notes, the goal of requesting a popular vote was, “mejorar la legitimación de lo acordado y facilitar el pase desde las negociaciones a la construcción de paz.” (“To improve the legitimacy of the agreement and facilitate the transition from negotiations to peacebuilding.”; 8). However, the popular vote was contrary to the agreement: 50.21% of voters did not support it, while 49.78% did (Colombia). Besides that, the participation was extremely low, not even 40% of population participated in the referendum (Colombia). Because of this result, the Final Agreement had to be reviewed to address the claims and objections of those who opposed it, such as former president Álvaro Uribe, leader of the “No” campaign. After this renegotiation phase, the government and the FARC-EP signed the definitive version of the Final Agreement in the Theater Colón in Bogotá on November 24, 2016. A few days later, it was ratified by the Senate and the House of Representatives of Colombia.

The Final Agreement includes provisions grouped under six main points or titles:

  1. Comprehensive Rural Reform and Development

Unequal land distribution and property is recognized as one of causes of the conflict in Colombia. To prevent it from happening again, it is necessary to improve living conditions in rural areas of the country. To this end, the government agrees to create a Land Fund that will distribute lands to landless farmers, to formalize the land possession of those farmers without title deeds, and to provide credit and technical assistance to improve agricultural production and marketing. Besides that, the government will implement development plans in rural areas to provide them with essential goods and services and it assumes food security as a national objective, that is, no one in Colombia goes hungry.

  1. Political Participation

Democratic and equal participation guarantees peace maintenance. In order to include different voices and opinions in the Colombian political sphere, the government will facilitate the creation of new political parties (such as the FARC-EP which, once dissolved, constituted the political party Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común). Also, the government will promote citizen´s participation at the individual level and through popular associations and it will establish special rules for voting in the regions most affected by the armed struggle and will guarantee the protection of those holding political office and leaders of organizations and social movements.

  1. End of Conflict

The FARC-EP agreed to surrender their arms to the United Nations, as well as abandon the armed struggle in favor of peaceful political participation. For its part, the Colombian government will provide psychological and economic assistance to former members of the guerrilla so that they can reintegrate into civilian life.

  1. Problem of Illicit Drugs

Growing, manufacture and trafficking of illicit drugs exacerbates the conflict and violence. Hence, ending the drug business is vital for the peace process. The government will collaborate with farmers to substitute illicit crops so that they integrate into the legal economy. Besides that, the government adopts a public health approach to drug use, while pursuing drug trafficking with all rigor.

  1. Víctims

The agreement creates a Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition to satisfy the rights of all victims of the armed conflict without distinction (including victims of the State, the guerrillas, and paramilitarism). This System includes different measures and bodies that coordinate with each other: a commission to clarify the truth of events that occured during the conflict, a missing person unit, a special jurisdiction to investigate and punish crimes committed in the conflict context, as well as several reparation measures, such as acknowledgement of responsibility, return of displaced people, and land restitution.

  1. Implementation, verification, approval

The Final Agreement establishes a commission to resolve any differences that may arise, to promote legislation that implements what has been agreed, and to verify that it is complied with. Besides that, it dictates a calendar to put into practice the provisions of the Agreement and an approval system, both institution and popular (the referendum mentioned before). Finally, it determines a series of criteria, as well as national and international mechanisms to verify compliance with the provisions of the Agreement.

For the media, the frequent attacks and assassinations of former guerrillas are the clearest sign that the peace agreements are not complied with. Even if a majority of the FARC-EP members laid down their arms, some dissident groups persist in armed struggles against the army, as do several paramilitary groups. Persistence of drug trafficking and its connections with dissident guerrillas and paramilitaries complicates the situation. Furthermore, the disposition towards the Agreement by the current government of Iván Duque differs from that of Santos, and translates into a slowdown in the application of the provisions to ensure, among other objectives, peace, equal political participation, rural development or the protection of ex-guerrillas and leaders of social movements. In his article, Rafael Grasa adds the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Colombian peace process (17-18), as well as the social discontent in the country that shaped into a number of protests in 2019, which were faced by the police with strong repression (16-17). Social discontent and police repression that repeated in 2021 sparked by a tax reform proposal from the Duque government (Lenthang).

4. About the people. Biographies.

Ana María Estupiñán plays Belky in La Niña. Watch her interview in the Dante Night Show and answer the questions below to know more about her life and artistic career. Use the auto-translate option in settings to add English subtitles.

Ana María Estupiñán[2]

4.1. What does Ana María think of the impact that La Niña had in Colombia and abroad?

4.2. How did the actress prepare for her role as Belky?

4.3. What award did Ana María win thanks to this show? What was her experience at the awards ceremony?

4.4. What are her future career plans? How does she prepare?

4.5. How does Ana María´s family influence her work?

4.6. What do you think of the interview and the interaction between the actress and the interviewer?

5. On language

5.1. The following words are commonly used in Colombia. Knowing them will help you to better understand what happens in the show.

Berraco/a or verraco/a Brave, amazing, outstanding
Botar la plata Waste of money
Dizque, diz que Apparently, it seems
Embolatarse Distract; get confused; mess up things.
Gomelo Snob
Langaruto Skinny
Llenar la cabeza de cucarachas Fill someone´s head with lies or concerns
Listo Ok
Mamar gallo To tease, to make fun of someone
Man Guy
Mono/a Blonde
Parar bola Pay attention, notice
Pedirle el cuadre Ask someone out
Pelado/a Young person
¡Qué pena! I´m sorry! What a shame!
¡Qué hubo! ¡Quiubo! What´s up!
Sancocho Soup made with different meats and vegetables
Sapo/a Snitch
Tinto Long black coffee
Vaina Nonsense, foolishness.
Vieja Woman (of any age)

5.2. El usted informal

According to the standard norm, usted is the formal way to address someone in Spanish and , is the informal one. However, in some areas of Colombia, usted is used in both formal and informal situations. Thus, family and friends commonly use usted to address each other, like in the show La Niña.
6. Who says…?

Match the name of each character with one of the quotes from the show below.

Colonel Alzate Dr. Tatiana Father Rivas Doña Mireya (Belky’s mother) Manuel

6.1. “I prayed, over and over, asking the Virgin to give me just one chance to see her again. To see her again and to beg her to forgive me. To forgive me for treating her badly. To forgive me for not being there. To forgive me for not being able to protect her or keep her from being taken.”. __________________

6.2. “There are many people hoping you don´t change. Many people saying that girl is not going to change. And that´s why we´re here. To shut them up. and I might be romantic. Foolish, but you know what? I think you can change. Sara, life is giving you an opportunity, a chance to start from scratch. To change your life, to leave the guerrilla life behind. You want to be a doctor? Do it. Silence everybody. But you only got one chance, Sara. Don´t waste it.”

______________

6.3. “You can rest assured that those who did it will pay. For us in the Human Rights Office it´s a priority to rehabilitate minors who have been taken by armed groups that operate outside the law. We have to do whatever it takes to give them their lives back. All those stolen years.” ______________

6.4. “Doctor, you think that you can forget eight years of war in one day? … That´s what we’re here for. To give those kids something from this side, because war is tough and attractive. … These kids have been in combat, had weapons. Had power, sex, adrenaline, and we offer them candy. Study son, work son, be better, competition is hard.” _____________________

6.5. “I was thinking about yesterday. To be honest with you, I disagree. I don´t think we´re just memories together. You know what? Yes, we are memories, but that´s not a bad thing. This is the only way in which we can survive. The good thing is we came back to life, and we´re not ghosts. Because we´re alive. Can you imagine spending your life with someone without memories? That´s the deal with your school friends. Like that guy, Santiago, he´s a good guy and all, but… Belky, he doesn´t have a life, that´s why he´s interested in you, he wants to live through you. And I´m completely sure that only with someone like you, I could deal with, and understand all those memories. The good and the bad. Without them… without being destroyed. I just wanted to tell you that I love you. I really love you, don´t ever forget that.” _____________________

7. Plot. What happened?

Select 5 events from the series that, in your opinion, are relevant. Describe them and explain why they are relevant for the story.

Description It is important because…
Event 1
Event 2
Event 3
Event 4
Event 5
8. Characters. Who are they?

Do the following activities to learn more about the characters in the show and the relationships between them.

8.1. Sara-Belky is the protagonist of the series and represents children forced to fight in armed groups in Colombia. Answer the questions below to learn more about her story:

a) Why does she have two names (Sara and Belky)?

b) How did she get to be with the guerrillas?

c) How is her life in the juvenile center? Does she get along with the rest of the children and teenagers there?

d) What is the protagonist´s dream? What or who inspired that dream? What obstacles does she have to face to achieve it?

8.2. Think of a word that describes Belky´s relationship with the rest of characters. As a group, explain why you chose that specific word.

Family

Mother: _______________________

Father: ________________________

Sisters: ________________________

Men in uniform

Barragan: ___FEAR___________

Roncancio: _________________

Alzate: _____________________

BELKY
In the juvenile center

Dr. Tatiana: _________________

Father Rivas: _________________

Manuel: _____________________

Yolima: _____________________

At the university

Dean:  _______________________

Professors:  ___________________

Classmates:  __________________

8.3 Fill out the table with information on the characters in uniform from the series.

  Commander Roncancio Colonel Luis Barragan Colonel Javier Alzate
He is part of… the guerrilla or the army? 

Army

What does he do in his specific role?
What do they look like?
What is his personality like?
How do they treat Belky? What do they want from her?
9. Scenes. A closer look

Think about some scenes from the show and answer the questions.

9.1. Episode 2. Guerrilla and Army. Belky’s guerrilla group arrives in a town where the army has set up a health camp. Why has the army come to the town? And the guerrillas? What actions does each group perform in this scene? What happens to the townspeople? After this, Sara-Belky changes her mind about the guerrilla leader, Roncancio. Why? What does Roncancio do that causes her to no longer admire or respect him?

9.2. Episode 5. At the movies. Belky and Manuel are watching a movie at the theater. How do you think they feel? After the movie, Manuel goes to the bathroom. What happens to him there? Who helps him? Why did Manuel react that way? Why did Manuel’s father send his son to the paramilitaries?

9.3. Episode 5. Interview at the university. In order for Belky to get admitted to the prestigious private university to study Medicine, she has to do an interview with the dean and several professors. In that interview there are four students besides Belky: What do they all have in common? What is different? Although the students come from very different social classes, they have all managed to get an access interview. In a way, the series tells us that everyone has the same opportunity to study… And yet, what did each of them have to do to get this interview? The dean wishes for Belky to fail the interview so that his daughter will take that place. What does he do to make things difficult for Belky? Who helps Belky? How? What does this person have in common with Belky?

10. Analysis

Complete the following activities to delve into the themes of the show.

Note

La Niña raises the issue of national reconciliation after years of civil conflict in Colombia through the figure of the child-soldier to arouse the sympathies of the audience towards the protagonist and her successful reintegration in civil life. This is not the only conflict that the series deals with. Divisions for reasons of sex/gender and economic status also generate social friction. To mitigate this friction, the series offers the same formula as for the reintegration of former guerrillas or paramilitaries: if we all collaborate, if we all do our part, if we all adapt to the new circumstances and compromise, we will achieve the much-desired goal of a conflict-free society.

10.1. Allies. Going from guerrilla to civilian life is not easy, but in the process, Belky receives the help of various characters. We will call this group “the allies.” Answer the questions to know more about them.

1. Colonel Alzate protects Belky when she is arrested, and calls Dr. Tatiana to talk with the girl. Then the doctor transfers her to the juvenile reintegration center run by Father Rivas. How do these three characters help Belky? What personality traits do they show? What values do they defend? Think of concrete scenes in the series when these values and personality traits are shown. Both the army and the juvenile center depend on the government. In other words, these three characters carry out the Colombian government’s policy regarding child soldiers in the series. What is that governmental policy?

2. Manuel is in the juvenile center and he is another of Belky’s allies. He encourages her to study, protects her and helps her face her fears and insecurities. When they meet, Manuel tells Belky that he was a “paraco,” that is, he was part of the paramilitary groups. These were illegal armed groups that fought against the guerrillas and also used child soldiers in their actions. Are Manuel and Belky alike? How are they different? What are Manuel’s plans for the future? What does Manuel tell about his time with the paramilitaries? Are there other young characters in the series that had been part of the guerrillas or the paramilitaries? What traits and behaviors do they show? Compare them to Belky and Manuel. How are they alike and how are they different?

3. Even though Manuel and Belky had been in conflicting sides during their involvement in the conflict, now that the two have returned to civilian life, they star in the main love story of the series. How does their romance fit with the series’ reconciliation proposal?

10.2. Family. Belky’s reunion with her family is not easy. At times, they do not seem very happy that she is back. How do family members react to Belky’s return? What do they think of her and her time with the guerrillas? What are they worried about? Do they change their mind as the story progresses? In what sense?

10.3. The Dream. Belky is determined to be a doctor and to achieve that goal she makes many sacrifices. Precisely, her determination to accomplish a goal that benefits society (to become someone who heals other people) helps the rest of the characters accept her despite her past with the guerrilla group. Why does Belky want to be a doctor? What obstacles must she face to study medicine?

Belky’s experiences with the guerrillas have provided her with some knowledge and personal characteristics that are extremely useful in a doctor, such as keeping calm in the middle of a crisis and a remarkable capacity for observation and attention to detail. Discuss with a classmate a scene from the series where we can see Belky’s guerrilla knowledge and experience applied in civilian life to save lives or to make a diagnosis.

10.4. Violence and Models of Masculinity. The series argues for a total rejection of violence, and one way to present this idea is through two opposing models of masculinity that are distinguished, one, by violence and aggression and, another model, that is by care and protection. The show channels the sympathy of the public towards the second model. Classify the male characters in the series in the table below along with some of their most relevant characteristics and behaviors. Then, discuss what these two models of masculinity have in common.

Warrior model Protector model
Names of the characters
Physical characteristics
Personality traits
How do they treat Belky? How do they treat other women in the show?
Describe a key scene where we can see this model in action.

10.5. Resolving economic and social differences. Belky’s classmates in medical school come from different economic and social backgrounds. Among her closest peers are: Víctor, Natalia, Santiago and Juliana. What is the economic background of these characters? What characteristics from their appearance, clothing, way of speaking, lodging, or behavior indicate that they belong to a certain social class? Fill out the table with the information.

  Víctor Natalia Santiago Juliana
Economic background/status
Appearance
Way of speaking
Lodging
Reason why they study medicine
Personality traits (values and principles they show)

At first, well-to-do characters reject Belky, but they end up accepting her and it seems that they become friends. What is these characters’ attitude towards Belky in the beginning? What causes their dislike? How does their attitude change? Does something special happen that makes them change?

Regarding professors, do they behave in the same way as this group of students? Do they accept Belky as a regular student at the school or do they reject her?

11. Final assignment

As discussed in the series, children and young people who were members of armed groups participated in violent and illegal actions, such as kidnappings, extortion, or armed assaults. Many people thought that these young people would never be able to return to a normal life. Other people considered that they did not deserve a second chance, since they had participated in criminal actions and thus they were lost for society. Choose a character from the list and write a reflection on the series topic from that character´s point of view. You have to put yourself in that person´s shoes and present his or her opinion and arguments.

Characters

  • Someone whose father was kidnapped by the guerrillas for two years.
  • A soldier who was seriously wounded in a fight against the guerrillas.
  • A young man who was a member of one of the paramilitary groups.
  • The director of a rehabilitation center for minors who have been part of armed groups.
  • The mother/father of a former guerrilla who is now participating in a rehabilitation program.

 

Information
Title La niña
Developed by Juana Uribe
Directors Rodrigo Triana and Camilo Vega
Script Juana Uribe
Release April-September 2016
Country Colombia
 

 

 

Starring

Ana María Estupiñán (Belky)

Sebastián Eslava (Manuel)

Carlos Velázquez (Commander Roncancio)

Juan Sebastián Aragón (Colonel Alzate)

Marcela Benjumea (Mireya Pinzón)

Constanza Camelo (Dr. Tatiana Toquica)

Diego Vásquez (Colonel Barragán)…….

Production CMO Producciones
Distributor Caracol Televisión
Music Te invito by the group Herencia de Timbiquí
Awards 11 India Catalina Awards in 2017 (National Film Industry Awards from Colombia).
More information 86 episodes. Available on Netflix

References

Acuerdo Final para la terminación del conflicto y la construcción de una paz estable y duradera. Gobierno de la República de Colombia y Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo, 2016, peacemaker.un.org/node/2924. 11 May 2021.

Acuerdo General para la terminación del conflicto y la construcción de una paz estable y duradera/General Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict. Gobierno de la República de Colombia y Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo, 2012, peacemaker.un.org/colombia-generalaccordendconflict2012. 11 May 2021.

“Ana María Estupiñán protagonista de la exitosísima serie de Netflix ‘La Niña’-Dante Night Show.” Youtube, uploaded by Dante Night Show, 1 July 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=taZaC0yzkHQ. 11 May 2021.

Colombia, Congreso. Ley de Víctimas y Restitución de Tierras. Centro de memoria histórica, www.centrodememoriahistorica.gov.co/descargas/ley_victimas/ley_victimas_completa_web.pdf. 10 May 2021.

“Colombia dice No: las claves del plebiscito.” CNN en español, 3 Oct. 2016, cnnespanol.cnn.com/2016/10/03/colombia-dice-no-las-claves-del-plebiscito. 10 May 2021.

“Commons (Colombian political party).” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 10 May 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commons_(Colombian_political_party). 12 May 2021.

Grasa, Rafael. “Colombia cuatro años después de los acuerdos de paz: un análisis prospectivo.” Documentos de Trabajo. Fundación Carolina, n. 39, 2020, www.fundacioncarolina.es/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/DT_FC_39.pdf. 10 May 2021.

La Niña. Created by Juana Uribe, CMO producciones, 2016.

Lenthang, Marlene. “Explainer: Bloody protests in Colombia leave at least 26 dead.” Abcnews, 8 May, 2021, abcnews.go.com/International/explainer-bloody-protests-colombia-leave-26-dead/story?id=77539421. 12 May 2021.

“Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 8 May 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Armed_Forces_of_Colombia. 12 May 2021.

“Righ-wing paramilitarism in Colombia.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 4 May 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_paramilitarism_in_Colombia. 10 May 2021.


  1. Mapa de Colombia by Marburi96, license CC BY-SA 4.0 in Wikipedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6599261
  2. From Hechos & Crónicas televisión, license CC BY 3.0, in Wikipedia Commons, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ana_Mar%C3%ADa_Estupiñán_2018.jpg