In the center of Bogotá, La Trocha Brewery, an unexpected company started by former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) militants, is more than simply beer. It’s a tribute to transformation, resilience, and a commitment to peace. Doris Suárez, co-founder of La Trocha, recounts the distinct aromas of Coromoro beer, the brewery’s first production, and associates it with memories of the highlands where she formerly lived.
“It reminds me of the mountains where I used to live, and it’s very, very delicious,” says Suárez, remarking on the brew’s rich flavor.
Brewing beer, challenging stigmas: how La Trocha came to be
The FARC, a Marxist-Leninist rebel organization, had long conflicted with Colombia’s government. However, following the 2016 peace agreement, former FARC members looked for new opportunities in civilian life. Overcoming the stigma associated with their past, La Trocha was founded in 2019 as a brewery that does more than just craft beer. Suárez acknowledges the challenges of reintegration, stating, “I am a guerrilla fighter, I am a former prisoner, so with that on my CV, no one is going to give me a job easily.”
Recognizing the necessity of averting a return to guerrilla warfare, the Colombian government awarded ex-FARC members with grants and scholarships to learn how to produce beer. La Trocha now has six beers, including the recently launched La Fariana, which features a dove and a resting rifle on the label, representing the path from combat to peace.
La Casa de la Paz – fostering reconciliation through culture
In 2020, La Trocha expanded its reach beyond brewing by establishing La Casa de la Paz (the House of Peace) in Bogotá. This three-story cultural building acts as a reconciliation center, featuring graffiti and posters supporting peace and justice. Suárez goes on to say, “It’s what helps me to wake up every day, to get up with courage and be able to offer the best that we farianas can.”
La Casa de la Paz is more than just a cultural hub; it also serves as an educational place. The center hosts events, video screenings, and guided tours that explore Colombia’s violent history and journey to peace. A co-working area, a gallery, and a bar form an inclusive environment, attracting approximately 300 guests every day.
Educating future generations
Recognizing the need to conserve history, La Trocha’s Center offers seminars for children. Suárez stresses the significance of understanding one’s roots, saying, “Many children no longer know the history of their home. And if they don’t know the history of their home, they don’t know the history of their country either.” La Casa de la Paz’s engaging seminars aim to break the cycle of ignorance and create a better understanding of Colombia’s complex history.
Suárez candidly admits her initial skepticism about the peace process, stating, “I never believed in the agreement because most of the governments were looking for the surrender of the guerrillas in exchange for nothing.” However, she appreciates the gains made under former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ leadership, underlining the foundations created for a more democratic state with greater chances.
Former President Santos and Farc ex-commander-in-chief Timoleón Jiménez visited La Casa de la Paz, signifying a bridge between former rivals through shared moments and beer bottles. Suárez argues that peace is more than just laying down guns; it also includes establishing equitable opportunity and fundamental rights for all.
Navigating security concerns
Despite progress towards peace, security worries remain. Approximately 400 former Farc combatants have been killed since the peace deal was signed. La Casa de la Paz honors them with paper butterflies hanging at the entryway, a sad reminder of the sacrifices made for the cause of long-term peace.
La Trocha Brewery, with its creative approach to brewing and cultural participation, serves as a light of hope in Colombia’s reconciliation efforts. La Casa de la Paz not only produces beer, but also promotes understanding, education, and healing. In the face of adversity, former guerrillas turned craft brewers demonstrate tenacity and the possibility of creating a united and peaceful future.