. . .
Pedro Lozada is a survivor who believes that he has lived to celebrate
his eighty-third birthday because of the grace of God. Frail and slowed
by the infirmities of old age, Lozada resides with his son, daughter-in-
law, and two granddaughters on a narrow street in a neighborhood that
he and a wave of other peasant refugees created in the 1980s, when
the army and allied paramilitaries drove them from the countryside.
For much of his long life, Pedro Lozada pursued a vision of popular
democracy that challenged the foundations of elite rule and the official
state’s pronouncements about national progress. Because of his insis-
tence on far-reaching agrarian reform, the rights of workers to control
the fruits of their labor, and the role of the state in promoting and pro-
tecting the common good, he and others like him unsettled local land-
lords and political bosses, who understood that a more open, demo-
cratic society posed a threat to their power. Lozada lived in the Middle
Magdalena countryside for more than fifty years, struggling along with
other peasant settlers to carve a productive farm from the jungle and
withstand the pressures of acquisitive landlords and oil companies. He
was an effective grassroots organizer for many years. With the backing
of the Communist Party, Lozada established a rural school for peasant
children in his community, and his various leadership positions—of a
fisherman’s association, of peasant committees, and of neighborhood
councils—as well as his militancy in the Communist Party, his election
to the Puerto Berrío city council, and his participation in the Patriotic
Union, all attest to the ways that he developed a sense of confidence in
himself, envisioned a world that was free of the stifling constraints of
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