In November, RAFA Co-director and board President Roberto Gallo, Vice President Alejandra Jiménez, and several more RAFA board members, traveled to Colombia for the Second Festival of Rafting for Peace in honor of Rafael Gallo.
The event was held from November 5 to 7 in Miravalle, a village in San Vicente del Caguán, Caquetá, in southeast Colombia, once the epicenter of intense fighting between FARC guerrillas and the Colombian military. Colombia recently passed the five-year mark of the 2016 peace accord, ending the 52-year armed conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government.
The festival was staged by Caguan Expeditions, founded by the Colombian Rafting for Peace Team that Rafa Gallo helped create and train in 2018 and brought to the International Rafting Federation (IRF) 2019 World Rafting Championship in Australia. Gallo had helped pioneer the sport of rafting in Colombia more than 30 years ago. Read more here about the initiative to train Colombian ex-guerrillas as raft guides.
The Rafting for Peace Festival brought together groups from the military, government, United Nations, local community members, and ex-combatants to show the social transformations that have transpired in the territory from the peace process.
“Rafa believed that rivers can be scenarios for building peace and conserving nature. That is why he fell in love with the Rafting for Peace initiative and dedicated himself to supporting the project,” said his wife, Alejandra Jiménez.
“This was an amazing event where everyone was interacting together, laughing, and enjoying being on the rivers. For me to see the changes over the past three years since my dad and I first met them in 2018 was incredible,” said Roberto Gallo. “The Rafting for Peace Team are now professional rafting guides with excellent safety standards. They still have that incredible enthusiasm to reintegrate into the community and grow the rafting for peace movement in Colombia.”
The festival included a large group rafting trip on the Caqueta River to promote it for commercial rafting. The following day, there was a private trip on the Pato River in tribute to Rafa Gallo, where indigenous community members did an ancestral purification ritual.
“The Pato River connects into the Amazon and is an amazing, beautiful river. We could see blue macaws flying overhead, waterfalls, and it has canyons very similar to some areas on the Pacuare River in Costa Rica,” said Roberto Gallo.
In kinship with the connection between sports and peace, the Costa Rica Youth Rafting Team also attended the festival. The team had made a strong connection and friendship with the Rafting for Peace team during the 2019 IRF World Rafting Championship.
One Colombian news outlet summed up the event, “The second rafting festival was an experience of adventure, nature, and historical memory in which nationals and foreigners celebrated this success story of peace building. The reincorporated community members were worthy hosts of the event.”