Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cien (again)

1.5 hours writing, 1 hour meeting, 1.5 hours processing data, 1 hour reading, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 142

I worked on my presentation for Monday, developing charts that lay out the causal framework and that map the differences among politicized, militarized, and autonomous security-force configurations.

In terms of processing data, I continued to update my database on police deployment in Antioquia, and transferred my three tape-recorded interviews from 2003 into digital format.

I had a great meeting with a professor at CUNY who writes on the police. He had very helpful references for Honduras, one of my comparison cases, and contributed an interesting problematization of my concept of regime stability. I talk about how the decision to militarize or politicize security forces generates a "susceptibility" to certain types of armed challenges, either from within the state in the form of coups or from within society in the form of insurrections. Both of these are about armed challenges to the state. But there's another type of susceptibility that's generated by how the state is configured with regard to security forces, and that's the susceptibility of citizens to crime, including vigilantism and banditry. As I thought about it more, it seems as though there are parallels between the susceptibility of the state and that of citizens on the different paths I lay out: under militarized security forces, the state is susceptible to coup and citizens are susceptible to repression by agents of the state, as military logic begins to dictate security; whereas under politicized security forces, the state is susceptible to insurrection and citizens are susceptible to crime, as the ineffectiveness of state agents creates a vacuum in which common delinquency can flourish. I'll need to tease out this suggestive idea further.

In terms of reading, I continued checking out the post-mortems on Sunday's elections. The other big piece of the story is the continued infiltration of politics by the paramilitaries. While much like the infiltration of politics by drug traffickers, this has been something of an open secret, the true extent of paramilitary infiltration is now coming to light - so much so that "parapolitica" is the buzzword of the year in Colombia. Troublingly, several of the candidates elected to mayorships and municipal councils on Sunday have ties to the parapolitica scandal, which continues to gain steam as more revelations are made.

What this speaks to in terms of my dissertation is the degree to which the structure of regular armed forces (the guns authorized by the state) shape, reflect, and interact with the structure of irregular armed forces, such as the paramilitaries.

This is my 100th post in this blog; appropriate that it should come at the end of the month. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The world keeps turning

1 hour writing, 2 hours reading/researching, 2 hours processing data, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 142

Spent the morning catching up on the results of the local elections in Colombia that took place this past Sunday. Samuel Moreno, grandson of former military dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, managed a convincing victory in the Bogota mayor's race, trouncing my favorite, Enrique Penalosa. The Monday morning post-mortems focused on the bad image Bogotanos have of the expensive, tetchy TransMilenio (I find it a marvel of modern urban planning, and it's not *that* much more expensive than taking a regular bus these days) and on Penalosa's inability to project a charismatic image; he apparently comes off as an arrogant, aloof elitist. I dunno. Moreno also won thanks to the positive record of his predecessor, Lucho Garzon, with whom he shares a party label but little else. I was most surprised to see Garzon totally absent from the discussion in Bogota, even as a reference point. By contrast, in Medellin, every poster of the ultimately successful candidate, Alonso Salazar, featured his predecessor, Sergio Fajardo, and touted Salazar's continuity with Fajardo. Apparently, Moreno and Garzon don't get along, but given that in both cities, the incumbents are from non-traditional parties, I found the contrast between the two strategies striking. Ultimately, both were successful.

One of my betes noires, Horacio Serpa, was finally elected to something (governor of Santander) after losing three straight presidential elections. I have awful memories of him covering up for Ernesto Samper, the Nixon of Colombia who managed to last an entire term, during which I lived in Bogota for a year, amidst a scandal about drug barons financing his campaign.

Ultimately, the extreme fragmentation of the Colombian party system continues apace, a marked contrast with the situation not 20 years ago, when Liberals and Conservatives still structured the playing field. The more I learn about the history of the two parties, the more it's clear that there was always a war of all against all at the factional level; the main difference between then and now is that the two parties used to constitute a more-or-less solid framework within which the factional chaos seethed. Today I was reading one of the books I got last week, on the former President Alberto Lleras Camargo, who was secretary of the interior when the state and local police were first attempted to be nationalized in the 1930s, and he explains clearly that under the National Front power-sharing agreement that structured Colombian politics from 1958 through the early to mid-1970s, each party would be guaranteed a certain number of seats in Congress (50-50), but within each party, factions and lists would compete to see who got what. This dynamic was not unique to that period, but rather was frozen in a particular configuration during that period.

A key relation to untangle here is that among the local, state, and national lists on the legislative side (since mayors and governors were not elected until 1988 and 1991, respectively). This is in fact part of what I need to do for Antioquia in the 1940s and '50s: piece together the political puzzle and lay it alongside the security-force configuration.

In terms of writing, I began working with some of the data that I processed today, looking at the spatial distribution of security-force allocation in 1951 at a town-by-town level, and comparing that both to the level of armed conflict and the level of partisan competitiveness. Some interesting and non-obvious patterns emerged, and I'll want to continue expanding to other years and to look more closely at those patterns.

I continued setting up appointments for my trip to Berkeley later this week. I'm looking forward to sharing my work with my colleagues.

Monday, October 29, 2007


2 hours processing data, 2 hours training, 1 hour planning travel, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 140

This week's monitor is Michael Negrón. Michael is a consultant, coach, facilitator and trainer based in Guilford, CT. A former Interim Executive Director of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, and former senior executive for a Fortune 500 company, Michael is presently a consultant/facilitator with Hispanics in Philanthropy. He's certified in Emotional Intelligence and Resiliency 360 assessment tools and leadership competencies workshops, and has provided coaching to employees at P&G, Verizon and Pitney Bowes, and multiple nonprofit organizations. Welcome, Michael!

On Saturday, I met with Ana María to go over the research protocols regarding the police-service records, and to discuss protocols for ministerial reports, which she began reviewing that day. I already have my first update from her, so that work is moving along.

A light day today as I adjust to being back home and try to get back into the groove. I processed some of the data from Medellín; I really was able to get a lot about personnel and geographic distribution for the period that interests me, and I'll be interested to see what comes of it when I develop the data into a database.

I'm traveling to San Francisco this Friday to present at my department's Latin America research seminar on Monday afternoon. I'm looking forward to meeting with professors and to catching up with friends. Today, I set up appointments and took care of logistics for the trip.

I had a good conversation this afternoon with a former work contact who's kind enough to be helping with a reference for a job application I submitted recently. Now that I'm back in town, I'll want to make an extra effort to keep the job-search process going even as the writing heads into the final stretches.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Closing time, every new beginning is another new beginning's end

1 hour meeting, 1 hour processing data, 1.5 hours researching, 0.5 hours planning, 2 hours buying books, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 140

In the morning, in addition to beginning to pack for my trip home tomorrow, I continued processing the pictures of data I took in Medellín, and created backups of my data.

Had a good meeting with a professor in the political science department at the Universidad de los Andes. He and I had a class together in ´96 when he was an undergrad and I was in Colombia doing a Fulbright. He did his doctoral work in the States, and now it turns out we're both finishing our dissertations this semester after having had them "in the freezer" for a couple of years, as he aptly put it. Naturally, we had a lot to talk about, and I expect we'll stay in touch.

After my meeting, I went shopping at the temple of bookstores in Bogotá, the downtown Librería Lerner. They have a whole room full of Colombian books, and I did some real damage, as I generally do once on trips to Colombia. I guess a spree every several years isn't the worst thing ever. I was particularly excited about some biographies and memoirs of some of the major political actors during the ´40s and ´50s.

Finally, I went to the Archivo General and identified those files for the ´40s and ´50s that I want Ana María to look into. I put together a list of those, and also wrote up guidelines for the service-records database that we discussed yesterday.

Overall, a good end to a wonderful trip. I have a couple more hours tomorrow morning, and then it's back home.

Thanks to Kapi Kapiszewski for monitoring this week. Next up is Michael Negrón in Connecticut. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Carrying on

2 hours meeting, 3 hours planning, 2 hours training, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 140

Well, I now have a research assistant! Her name's Ana María Gómez, she was trained as a historian and has done archival work on the colonial period, and she currently teaches English to bankers and private clients and works as a translator. Welcome, Ana María!

Today we met, discussed a contract and workplan, I wrote them up, and we came to an agreement. Then we went to the Police Museum, and I trained her on the database of police service records from Antioquia that I had begun to construct. We're going to meet again on Saturday morning at the research library to go over the ministerial reports she'll be culling as well. On the way back to the north, we had a nice conversation about translating and different forms of Spanish in Latin America.

Last night we had a great time at the game, Millonarios won on two spectacular late goals. I'd never been to a soccer game where everyone was cheering for the home team. Dad, Abuela, I'm sorry, I temporarily went over to the dark side and cheered the evil, arrogant enemy. But if Sao Paulo had gotten a penalty, I was ready to risk a beatdown by yelling, "Métalo por Santa Fe!" (Score one for Santa Fe!) But it was not to be, and I lived another day.

But only just, as I packed a week's worth of street food into one night. Such are the sacrifices your humble correspondent is willing to make. At the stadium, I had lechona, or roast suckling pig, which has three remarkable features: Its presentation at the stand includes the head; the moist pulled pork and fluffy rice are topped with a firm arepa and, placed oh-so-delicately, a triangle of crispest skin, which pork rinds dream of being; and the mere smell of it has the capacity to clear half a row in a sold-out stadium. The fact that Gerardo and I had to shove through a mob for 40 minutes to get back to our seats after getting food made it taste all the better. On the way out of the stadium, I got a meat kebab, or chuzo, which comes with a small boiled potato on the end, and tastes lusciously of the grill and gristle. The fact that it was cheaper than the grilled corn-on-the-cob (with kernels so big Cathy calls them "horse corn") with which I accompanied it is best not contemplated.

As my time here draws to a close, I'm focused on setting up my assistant to continue gathering data, and to consolidating the data that I've gathered. It's been an incredibly productive trip.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Getting stuff done beyond the archives, what a novel concept

3 hours interviewing, 2 hours planning, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 140

Please welcome this week's monitor, Piotr "Kapi" Kapiszewski, in Oakland. He's my fellow Berkeleyan Diana's husband, and he knows what it's like to deal with fieldwork and more data than you can handle. Welcome, Kapi!

Had a fantastic interview this morning with Maria Victoria Llorente, a scholar of the Colombian police who currently runs Fundación Ideas para la Paz, a think tank doing important work on security and conflict in Colombia. We had a lot to talk about as folks who've worked in both academia and civil society.

My cousin Gerardo has identified someone who may be able to work with me as a research assistant, and continue gathering data after I leave. I meet with her tomorrow morning, so this afternoon I prepared a summary of my project and a sketch of a workplan in Spanish. If all goes well, we'll go to the Police Museum and the National Archive after we meet to get started on the data collection.

Tonight we're going to see Millonarios play Sao Paulo in the quarterfinals of the Copa Sudamericana. My grandmother, my father and I all bleed the red of Santa Fe, the eternal, hapless rival of Millonarios, so this is a bit like going, as a Mets fan, to watch the Yankees play the Indians in the playoffs. I'll do my best not to cheer for Sao Paulo, especially as I enjoy my life and my limbs and would like to keep all of them. On the other hand, it's awfully satisfying to see the Red Sox in the World Series, just for the pain it causes the Yankees.

I wasn't able to upload some of my pictures from Medellín yesterday, so here they are. Most are from the Plaza Botero downtown, featuring that artists' sculptures, and one is from a metro station in the east of the city.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Back in the high life again

5 hours researching, 1 hour interviewing, 2 hours processing data, 1 hour traveling, page count = 140

Well, I'm back in Bogotá after an eventful trip to Medellín. Many thanks to Carlos Gustavo Zea, alias El Gato, for the use of his family's lovely apartment and for his enjoyable company over the past several days. We flew to Medellín together last Sunday, and Carlos took us through the Avianca VIP lounge, which featured plush chairs, free drinks (if only I'd been in the mood for a scotch...) and WiFi. Plus we went in first class on the plane. Not a bad way to live! (Almost makes me want to take back what I said yesterday about Avianca. But not quite.) El Gato and his family are in the process of moving to Medellín, and I know they'll have a great time there. They're the kind of people who know how to make you feel welcome, and that'll get you far in this life. Gracias, Gato!

I went to a public library this morning to get some additional sources to complement the records from the governor´s archive. They were resolutions passed by the state assembly, and a number mentioned the police or dealt with budget matters that will help provide an overall context. There's so much data that I've mainly been taking photos to process later, to get as much info as I can while I´m down here. Last night and this morning I went through the literally hundreds and hundreds of photographed pages to check which ones were out of focus, and then went back and re-took those pictures in the governor's archive today. (I think my temporary monitor Diana will be proud of me for that one!) Finally, I had the great pleasure of interviewing two retired police colonels, who provided a nonstop stream of history, commentary, opinion, and experience, from which I'll benefit enormously. I've added significantly to the "Acknowledgments" section of my dissertation over the past couple of weeks, and I look forward to sharing the final product with the people I've met and who've helped me.

Tomorrow morning, I have a meeting with a leading researcher on the contemporary police, so it's go-go-go until my plane leaves on Saturday. I'm back at altitude (Bogotá is at 8500 feet) but the thin air won't stop me motoring around the city the next three days!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wrapping up in Medellín

0.5 hours writing, 4 hours researching, 2 hours interviewing, 2 hours travel prep, page count = 140

Never try to buy a plane ticket from Avianca over the phone. Better yet, don't fly Avianca, their customer service is a nightmare. I'm taking Satena back to Bogotá tomorrow night, and am happier for it; they use the downtown airport instead of the far-away one - like the difference between National and Dulles. But that was a couple of hours wasted getting all of that together.

On the positive side of unexpected things today, I was able to set up and carry out an interview with a retired Major in the National Police who lives in and is from Medellín, and who came into the institution during the period I study. It was a very helpful conversation, as he saw the police firsthand before and after it underwent a militarizing reform to counteract the prevailing politicization during La Violencia. I also met with another retired Major who's involved with the association of retired police officers, and his historical and cultural perspectives were most useful.

In terms of researching, I completed gathering data on the three different sources regarding security-force configurations and conflict between 1945 and 1955. Now it's time to analyze all that good stuff! In terms of writing, I began writing up the data-collection I've employed and the plan for analyzing it.

Tomorrow, I have another interview with a retired officer in the National Police, a meeting with a local historian, and a few more hours to do at the library and in the archive before I catch an early-evening flight to Bogotá. My next post will be from there; it's been a great trip, and I'll always remember my time here!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bonus edition

8 hours researching/reading, 1 hour meeting, page count = 138

The archive was open today for a half-day, so I went and continued my scouring of the governor's records from the 1940s and 1950s. One key volume from the early part of the period was missing, so I'll have to see what impact that might have on the comparison of the different periods. But that's the good thing about triangulating sources: gaps in one can be made up for by another.

Thanks to a contact through my cousin, I was able to meet with a Major in the Metropolitan Police who's studied the history of the institution. He had a good source about the evolution of the police in Medellín, and an interesting perspective on the contemporary relationship between the police and elected officials, which will form a useful contrast with the historical period I study. (The big difference, of course, is that governors and mayors are now elected, rather than appointed, as they were back in the day.)

I went to another library in a different part of town to check out a report from the Governor to the Departmental Assembly, i.e., the State Congress, from 1946, and to see if they had other years. I just barely made it to the library before it closed, but I was able to enlist the help of one of the librarians to look for more of them on Monday. The report itself was quite slim, but there was a juicy item in the appendix with a list of municipalities to which police were sent in advance of the presidential election. It's exactly that kind of differential spatial distribution of the police, and its relation to electoral dynamics, that's going to be one of the key datasets that I build.

I also began reading a fascinating book by Francisco Gutierrez Sanin on the Colombian political parties entitled (in Spanish) Gone with the Wind? Fascinating stuff so far. Every page is full of common sense that debunks traditional ideas about the parties. Finally, someone's starting to put together an analytically sophisticated history of the two major political parties. That one hasn't existed up until now is frankly shocking.

Okay, now for real, have a good weekend!

Friday, October 19, 2007


6 hours researching, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 138

After yesterday's very long entry, something a bit shorter today. I came up with a good plan for what data I need to gather, and began organizing myself around it. I needed to muck around in the data for a while to get a good sense of it, but now I'm clear that I want and can get two sets of data. One is a correlation between security-force presence and public-order disturbances for five distinct periods, each of which corresponds to a slightly different configuration of political and institutional variables. This will allow me to gauge the impact of the institutional design on the scope and intensity of the conflict. The other dataset will be about the spatial distribution of security-force presence and electoral dynamics. Was there a correlation between the presence of state forces and electoral dynamics; in other words, did Conservative-leaning towns get more support from a Conservative administration? Was the military government neutral with respect to the party affiliations of towns as far as allocating security within the state?

The archive is open tomorrow, so I'll be working on the weekend. I just wish it would stop raining!

Thanks to this week's monitor, Hugo Cardona. Up next is Piotr Kapiszewski, aka Kapi, in Oakland. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


6 hours researching, 1 hour emailing/setting up meetings, page count = 138

I spent a couple of hours putting together two job applications today. Gotta keep those irons in the fire even as I'm cooking up this dissertation. I'm lucky that there are a few foundation positions open now for which I'm a fit. We'll see how it goes.

As far as research, I continued with the triangulation of sources for the first half of 1951 today. There's so much information that I'm mostly taking pictures to analyze it later. Not the most scintillating work, but given the needs of efficiency, it's what works best. There are a number of interesting datasets I could compile from this information: municipal distribution of police forces, municipal distribution of police and army comisiones (special patrols to deal with public-order situations), change in the structure of the police before and after reorganization efforts. Over the weekend, I'll take a crack at analyzing the data further and drawing some conclusions.

In terms of outreach, I heard back from several scholars I'd contacted in the past week, so I spent some time getting back to them to set up appointments. A cousin is helping me set up an interview with a retired police official here in Medellin, which will be important for the state-level picture. There was a LOT of change in the formal structure of the Antioquian police in the '40s and '50s: the question is how much the formal changes really affected the underlying dynamics at the local level.

I love this picture because it shows so many layers of my experience in Medellin (click on it to enlarge). It's taken from the Parque Berrio metro station, which like all the Metro stations I've been in (grand total of 4) is above ground. I always thought the idea of a metro in Bogota was absurd, because how expensive would it be to dig all those tunnels, but duh, what if you built it above ground? Intriguing.Whether Bogota should have a metro is actually one of the main campaign differences in the Bogota mayoral race, which concludes on the 28th. The two leading candidates are Enrique Penalosa, who made the TransMilenio happen, making him my hero, and Samuel Moreno Rojas, the grandson of a military dictator deposed 50 years ago this May. OK, now this is really weird: Rojas Pinilla ran the country from 1953-57, and was deposed because he was trying to refashion himself as a Peron-like populist. Thirteen years later, he ran for President as a civilian on a populist/conservative platform and a third party, and won. Well, until the election was stolen thanks to a convenient power outage at the vote-counting site. Before the outage, Rojas Pinilla was winning; after, his opponent, Misael Pastrana, was winning. Hmmm. As they used to say in the 19th century: quien escruta, elige: the one who counts the votes, elects. Pastrana's son, Andres, was mayor of Bogota and President in the late '90s. No wonder they talk about a clase politica, the same names recur, like a nightmare. Some of Rojas Pinilla's followers were so embittered after his defeat in 1970 that they took to the mountains and formed a guerrilla group, M-19, named after the 19th of April, 1970, the date of the fraud. The M-19 became famous in the 80s when they took hostages in the Palace of Justice, a standoff that ended in tragedy as the Palace went up in flames. (Still hasn't been fixed; it stands on one side of the Plaza Bolivar in Bogota, the figurative center of the nation.) They demobilized in the late 1980s, became a political party, put on a pretty good news program (which I recall having more real-life content than the network news), and eventually got a bunch of seats in the 1991 Constituent Assembly, which produced one of the most multicultural, participatory, and inclusive documents ever to putatively ground a nation's laws. So, to summarize: the only 20th-century military dictator later runs for President as a Colombian Peronist and has the election stolen, leading to the creation of a guerrilla group that after demobilizing, plays a key role in shaping the first new constitution in 100 years, making it super-inclusive. Now his Kennedy School-trained grandson is running for mayor of Bogota as a technocrat with the popular touch. My head hurts just writing it down.

Anyway, the metro station from which the picture is taken is elevated. The striped building in the middle ground is the Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe, in the basement of which is the archive in which I've been working. Uribe Uribe was an avid proponent of professionalizing the army in the early 20th century. One of my favorite sources from that time is his letters to his sons, both of whom he sent to military college in Santiago, to learn from the Chilean experience of military professionalism. The tone alternates among offhand references to politics (for a time, Rafael was the only Liberal who could manage to get elected to Congress: 1 vs. 65), stern fatherly admonishment, and tender encouragement. Julian Uribe went on to become governor of Antioquia and leader of the state Liberal party. He was exiled during La Violencia.

On the street below, in addition to the foot traffic, are street vendors, some of whom sell individual packs of gum. You can get everything in single servings on the street here, from gum to cigarettes to phone calls. The gum vendors offer their wares for a nickel: "A cien, a cien, a cien." How do I know this? Because the archive windows onto the street are open, and that bleating cry is the constant accompaniment of my days there. In the background of the top picture is a mural of a Botero painting. The archive looks out onto the Plaza Botero, which features a bunch of his statues, like in this other picture (click it to enlarge).

Finally, way in the background of the top picture, barely visible (click it to enlarge), is one of the mountains that form the valley in which Medellin is nestled, and which provide the wonderful views I enjoy from the apartment.

I've updated posts from earlier this week with some pictures, scroll down and check them out!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


1 hour writing, 6.5 hours reading/researching, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 138

I’m listening to a chorus of crickets as night falls over Medellín. The apartment is perched on a hillside, and I’m looking out the balcony over the valley in which the city lies. What a different experience from Bogotá. My cousin’s apartment where I’m staying there is similarly removed from the city center, but there it’s silent, while here there’s birdsong in the morning. And the climate really is ideal. I’m grateful to everyone who’s helped make this trip worthwhile so far.

Today I focused on triangulating accounts of public-order disturbances from three different sources for the same time period, the first six months of 1951. This was at the height of La Violencia, and there’s a lot of material to go through. Much of it I’m photographing for later analysis. But from what I’ve started processing, I’m surprised to see that the three sources – army, police, and public-order reports from the state government – don’t have a lot of overlap. And all three point out a number of public-order disturbances across the state. Seems like they each take different approaches to the problem, or that different audiences reach out to them. As I expected, there’s a lot of disagreement between the army and police, but surprisingly, the army is not always the neutral party its more professionalized profile at the time would have led me to believe. This only reinforces my point about the unpredictability of security-force responses fueling the conflict and keeping it local – if even the national forces brought in can prove disloyal to the government, what other recourse is there but to solve local problems with local guns?

In terms of writing, I began incorporating some of my research from last week at the Police Museum into one of the empirical chapters. One of the things I’ve been trying to figure out is the exact timing and extent of the nationalization of the police, the process by which the central government took a degree of control over the subnational police away from governors and mayors. Interestingly, Antioquia seems to have come to this process quite late, a good 13 years after it was initially implemented in most states. Since that 13 years later equals 1949, I should be able to trace the impact, if any, of this change through my archival work. I’m getting a good picture of what the police looked like after this change, so I’ll need to go back and examine what it was like before.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Desde paisalandia

0.5 hours writing, 7 hours researching, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 136

Greetings from Medellín! This week's monitor is my dear old dad, Hugo Cardona, in Milwaukee. An engineer for 44 years, he became a businessman and after 28 years in the corporate world, has been running not-for-profit organizations as business with a heart and trying to make a difference for those in need. The link for the organization he runs, La Causa, is in the links box on the right side of this page. Welcome, Dad!

I got here late last night, and it's all been going well so far. The guy in whose apartment I'm staying is super-nice, and he was kind enough to take me on a quick orientation drive last night. So this morning, I had no problem getting to the metro, and there's a stop right next to the archive. The weather here is wonderful, I'm in an Internet cafe that has its doors open, in my shirtsleeves, at 6pm. Bogota is much colder!

There's a lot of good stuff in the state historical archive, which is situated just off a charming little courtyard. Today, I started going through police and army records from the early 1950s, looking to get a clearer sense of who controlled what, who paid for what, and what that all meant for the way the conflict played out. There are thick volumes full of complaints from towns throughout the state about public order problems - often about the police themselves. I had assumed it was always the police who would flip to the side of the rebels, but I saw one instance where it was an army soldier. My strategy tomorrow will be to take a specific time period - the first six months of 1951 - and triangulate three different sources: army records, police records, and executive-branch records. My aim will be to see how these different actors talk about the same episodes - or if they even do. In the meantime, I started writing up some of what I found today.

For lunch, I had the classic dish of Antioquia, bandeja paisa, which is a no-holds-barred assault on the digestive system: beans, rice, french fries, a quarter of an avocado, a fried egg, a piece of sausage, ground beef, green tomato slices, half a plantain and, wait for it, chicharrón (click at your own risk). No, I'm not lying. No, I didn't eat it all. Yes, I may still die. The mora (Andean blackberry) juice in water was good, though.

I'm headed back to the apartment now, which has spectacular views of the valley in which Medellín is located. I'm really glad I came so far - gathering subnational data isn't done all that often in comparative politics that deals with the types of macro themes that interest me, so it was a thrill to step across the threshold of the archive this morning into that new territory. Here's to further exploration tomorrow!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Armando el rompecabezas

0.5 hours writing, 6 hours reading/researching, 1 hour emailing/planning, page count = 135

I'm all set for my trip to Medellin on Monday. I have my plane ticket, a place to stay, the hours and address of the archive I'll be visiting, and an appointment with a local academic who's interested in my topic. Here we go!

In terms of writing, I sketched some ideas for a simple formal model to describe the local dynamics of conflict involving politicized police. I've tried this a number of times before, but this time I feel clearer about what is and isn't useful. I think I may be on to something this time. We'll see. I'm sure I looked funny on the bus peering intently at my little notepad with a game tree sketched on it.

I went back to the Police Museum and continued to go through service records for the Medellin Municipal Police. A couple of good political things came up, as well as the involvement of governors and mayors. I think I'm starting to pull the picture together.

In terms of reading, I continued to go through notes from my last trip, and got some useful leads about police legislation that I was able to follow up on in the museum today. Bit by bit, it all gets clearer....

Thanks to Lucía Corral Peña for monitoring this week. Next up is my dad, Hugo Cardona, in Colombia. How appropriate that he be monitoring while I'm in Colombia, given that it was our early conversations about Colombia that got me interested in La Violencia in the first place. They celebrate Columbus Day here next Monday, so everything will be closed, and that's when I'll travel to Medellín. I may make it to the library over the weekend, as there's one that's open Saturday and Sunday, and I have lot of data yet to gather. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


1 hour writing, 7 hours researching/reading, 0.5 hour meeting, 0.5 hour emailing, page count = 145

Holy crap, did it rain here today! I got soaked on the way to the bus, but was at least able to buy an umbrella so i can avoid it tomorrow. Usually it just rains for an hour in the afternoon, but it went on much longer today.

Plastic surgery has become an obsession down here. I'm at the apartment of a friend of my cousin's, and the novela is on: it's all the same actors I remember from 4 years ago, but collagen-lipped and botoxed to death. "Lipoescultura," they call it.

Anyway: another day, another gold mine of data. I met with the head of the Police Museum downtown, and he gave me the run of the library. So I'm figuring I'll find some good stuff about the national police, but will need to find state police stuff in Antioquia. Imagine my surprise when one of the very helpful agents working in the library points out that they have a complete set of service records...for the municipal police...of Medellin...from 1940 to 1954. Jackpot! Ah, the thrill of discovery. Once again, I got an actual chill from seeing the potential of this data. Just leafing through the pictures is evocative, then to get into the specifics of each agent's service record...just fascinating. There are about 6,000 records in total, so I worked on a sampling plan to get enough to be able to extrapolate, but not to have to spend the rest of the year coding the service records. There are agents from before the start of La Violencia, from the high period (1948-53), from during the military's just perfect.

In terms of writing, last night after posting I went through the manuscript again re-incorporating the three chapters I sent to my committee on Monday. It turns out I had made a few more pages of cuts that day, so today's page count reflects the real total.

For lunch, I had a really good ajiaco, which is a classic local dish. It's comfort food for a rainy day, a long-simmered chicken-and-potato soup. This place did it really well, with tender chicken, a rich, starchy broth, a nice little cob of thick-kerneled corn, and the traditional accompaniments, creme fraiche and capers (more like caperberries). Yum. They also had really really good fried yuca with guacamole. And the best part: the juices. That's the #1 food thing I miss from Colombia: every place has a wide selection of fresh tropical fruit juices, which you can get with water or with milk. I'm getting the hang of which ones go better with water and which go better with milk. Today I had lulo with water, which is kind of a sour orange flavor, perfect to cut through the rich soup and yuca. It's been a long day, but I'm looking forward to getting back to those service records tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cough, cough

0.5 hours writing, 4.5 hours researching, 1 hour meeting, page count = 139

I spent much of the day at the national archive, examining the newly released files from the President's office in the 1950s. Since this period includes a conflictual civilian government, a military government, a placeholder military junta, and a civilian government featuring 50-50 power-sharing, it's a really significant period, and these files are a great new resource that hasn't really been tapped yet. When I got the first folder and gently opened it, I got an actual shiver up my spine at the sight, smell, and feel of fresh primary documents: the translucent onion-skin paper, the sometimes clumsily typewritten text, the florid signatures in brightly colored ink, the faintest smell of attic.

Much of the day was cataloging what's available and what I want to potentially look at, but I did also start actually reading (and scanning for later) documents. This was an incredibly hectic time in Colombian history, and there are a lot of requests from state and local actors for recognition, help, or relief. I started writing up some general impressions, and I want to try to keep up that discipline even as I delve further into the data.

Had a great lunch meeting with a professor who's one of the premier "violentologists." He had many thoughtful suggestions and useful contacts, and was very gracious when I got ridiculously lost on the way to his apartment and was atrociously late. So much for my stubborn love of public transit - or more truthfully, my stubborn belief that I could walk around after 4 years and "figure it out." I did a pretty decent job in the end, but it just took too long and I wore out a lot of shoe leather - as well as more than a few bits of lung tissue. Some of the main avenues are SO smoggy. Yeesh. But I got the hang of it by the time I headed back downtown. Now I'm going to have dinner with a former Berkeley colleague who lives here now. The fieldwork is off to a good start!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

From the Andes

2 hours writing, 2 hours reading, 1 hour prep, page count = 138

This week's blog monitor is Lucía Corral Peña, in the East Bay. Lucía is a foundation and nonprofit consultant specializing in grantmaking and new program design, project management, facilitation, organizational and fund development for social change organizations. Lucia currently serves as a lead consultant to The California Endowment's Agricultural Worker Health Initiative and Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy's Civic Engagement Fund. Lucia is an attorney and most importantly enjoys life with her husband Gustavo Peña and children Diego, Joaquín and Alex. Welcome, Lucía!

Well, I'm here! I arrived in Bogotá this afternoon after a delayed connecting flight out of Miami. I slept through most of the delay, so it wasn't really that bad. However, by the time I arrived, it was too late to get anything useful done at the archives, which close at 5pm, so I went over to a cousin's to hacer visita, meet and greet a bunch of my relatives, which was great. I hadn't seen most of them in almost 4 years, and there are new businesses, a new baby, all kinds of wonderful changes. They're hooking me up with places to stay in Bogotá and Medellín, as well as a cell phone and Internet access, so I have a lot to be thankful for.

In terms of writing, I'm carrying over some time from the weekend, when I finished revising three chapters and sent them to my committee. In terms of reading, on the plane, I went over my notes from my last fieldwork trip. I spent some time upon arrival setting up appointments and getting the research materials I need ready. Tomorrow, I head to the archives first thing. I'm glad to be here and excited to get started!

Friday, October 5, 2007

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go

4 hours writing, 2 hours planning, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 138

Actually, none of my bags are even close to packed. But I did finalize plans for my trip, making a list of things to get over the weekend and to bring with me. I'm all set in terms of who will pick me up at the airport and where I'll first arrive in Bogota, as well as what my return transportation from the airport will be on the 27th - that structure is oddly comforting.

In terms of writing, I prepared three chapters to send to my committee. Annoyingly, this involved a lot of reformatting, from the outline format I use while editing to something that a person can read. But there's no point sending it if people can't read it.... But it also helped to identify other places where I need to shore up the argument, or where I was being repetitive. I'll take another look tomorrow morning before sending them along.

Thanks to this week's monitor Laura Sumner. Next up is Lucia Pena, in Northern California. Cathy has Columbus Day off, so I'll be taking the holiday too. My next post will be from Colombia on Tuesday! Have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Meet the butler

2 hours writing, 2 hours reading/researching, 0.5 hour phone meeting, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 138

Today I starting telling the butler's story (see yesterday's post). Ideally, I'd like to start with an especially vivid anecdote from Antioquia where you see the local police, the state police, the national police, and the army all involved - but for now, a placeholder where the local and state police are on opposite sides of a fight in Tolima in 1948 will do. That gives a very different flavor to the introduction. I'm going to send my committee a couple of chapters tomorrow; at first, I wasn't sure if the intro would be one of them, but now I'm thinking that it ought to be.

In terms of reading, I continue to get up to speed on current events in Colombia. It'll be very interesting to be there during a local election season, given my interest in the dynamics of state-municipal relations. It was only in the past 20 years that mayors and governors were elected; for more than a century before that, they were appointed by the central government. (Well, governors were, and then they appointed mayors.) Imagine what that would be like here....

In terms of researching, I went back to tapes of interviews I did during my last fieldwork to prep for my trip. Useful stuff on there, I'll continue to listen tomorrow, and it gives me an alternative to the iPod for the plane ride down on Monday. I can't believe I'll be there in five days! Crazy.

Had a good phone conversation with a Yale graduate student who's done really interesting work on La Violencia. It confirmed that it's a good idea to work on Antioquia because others have focused on it and gathered local-level data.

Continued to reach out to scholars in Bogota to set up meetings for next week. I'll surely have plenty to do in the archives, but if I can also meet with people who can provide new ideas and contacts, all the better.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The butler's story

2.5 hours writing, 0.5 hours meeting, 0.5 hours emailing, 0.5 hours planning, page count = 133

Had a great phone conversation with Miguel Angel Centeno, whose Blood and Debt was one of the original inspirations for my project. His main suggestion was provocative and right on: rather than starting with theory and getting to Colombia in later chapters, I should start with an anecdote about the security forces in conflict with each other, and build up from there. In other words, rather than making the reader wait to find out the butler did it, tell the butler's story: start with what happened, then explain why and draw out the broader implications. Makes a lot of sense.

In terms of writing, I'm in a bit of a holding pattern waiting for my trip to Colombia, so I dedicated today to bringing my bibiolography up to speed. All the sources that are mentioned in the manuscript are now accounted for in the bibliography, and 90% of them are complete and correct. It's that kind of thing that can trip you up in the very end, so I'm glad to get on top of it now. I also reviewed Berkeley's guidelines for the final manuscript; I'll definitely have my work cut out for me during my trip to the Bay Area in December clearing all the bureaucratic hurdles.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


2 hours writing, 2 hours reading, 2.5 hours meeting, page count = 133

Went to Princeton for a seminar on insecurity and democratic stability in Central America, and to meet with a professor who's starting a new project on the police. It's a pleasant 80-minute train ride from Manhattan - good for getting reading done. The last 5 minutes are on a one-car train called the "Dinky," the sole purpose of which is to go the two miles from Princeton Junction station to the Princeton campus. It's adorable. There was a farmer's market on campus, very cute. The seminar was very interesting - bottom line, El Salvador and Guatemala are in a world of hurt, while Nicaraguans report higher levels of institutional trust and lower levels of vulnerability to crime than you would expect. And my meeting with Deborah Yashar, who graduated from my program 10 years ago, was terrific. She had lots of concrete advice and asked the right questions. I'll look forward to visiting again later in the fall.

In terms of writing, I went through the manuscript and gathered all the crumbs I had left myself over the past week as to items on which I need to follow up, and evidence I need to gather. Those are all in one big list, which means I can start cutting away at that list. I also prepared a one-page summary for a professor - from Princeton, actually, but currently on sabbatical in Spain - with whom I'll be speaking tomorrow. After a couple of attempts, I was able to connect by phone just now with John Bailey, one of the leading scholars on the police in Latin America. Couldn't be a nicer guy, and pointed me in some very useful directions.

In terms of reading, I took a further look at another critical-juncture argument I need to incorporate into my discussion, and begain reading a recent collection on civil-military relations in Latin America. It's amazing how quickly things change; this collection from 2001 aims to bridge the civil-military relations literature with current methodological thinking in political science, but just a few years later, it feels a little out of date. (That assessment may change as I read more of the articles.) What's changed is the growth of formal modeling and multi-method work in comparative politics. It's good to know I can make a contribution.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Net result

3 hours writing, 0.5 hours reading, 1 hour emailing, 1 hour planning, page count = 135

This week's monitor is Laura Sumner, in Oakland. (Used her maiden name on Friday - whoops!) Laura is a grad student in Art Therapy, a talented collage artist, and happily newlywed. Laura and Matt went to Costa Rica on their honeymoon, where they saw all kinds of cute animals, including the curious coatimundi. Welcome, Laura!

I finished going through the manuscript today. I took out another section that featured the previous 3-state comparison, and added in material indicating what remains to be written in the empirical chapters - a net gain. From here on out, it looks to be all adding new material. After the great 6-day revision of the whole megillah, the net result is 21 pages edited out, 14 new pages added. Not bad. A good bit of the new material is placeholders that need to be expanded upon, so that gives me a clear direction for where to go next. It also happens to involve the additional data that I'll be gathering in Colombia starting next week, so that's good timing.

Reading-wise, I looked at a source on decentralization in Colombia, and prepped for my meeting in Princeton tomorrow. I continued to set up contacts and meetings in Colombia, and confirmed my trip to the Bay Area in December to get final signatures and file the dissertation. I haven't been reading as much as I'd like the past week or so, but that will all change next week, when I'll be up to my eyeballs in reading material. The challenge then will to keep up the writing each day so I can process the new information as it comes in.

Yesterday, we went back to the Red Hook Ball Fields (see pix at right), as this will be our last chance to go together before the season ends on Oct. 21st. I tried the seafood rice (a cross between paella and risotto, with lots of sauteed peppers - good, but I'd try the tuna soup next time instead) and the Colombian booth, which had empanadas (OK) and chuzos, aka kebabs (yum). Continuing the warm-up for Colombian food, I made the late-night pilgrimage to the #1 NYC food stand, according to New York magazine: the Arepa Lady, in Jackson Heights, Queens. She's only open on weekends, from 10pm-5am (yes, you read that right), so this would require a special expedition. My impending trip - and the Arepa Lady's own upcoming vacation - spurred me into action. All I'll say is that the opening hours are based on a sophisticated understanding of market demographics, Latino-dance-bars-on-Roosevelt-Avenue division, and that you see some interesting characters on the F train to Queens at 2 in the morning. The chorizo with lime was delectable, and the arepas nice and cheesy, but nothing can erase the memory of my favorite Bogota haunt in '03. A dusty storefront on the street between the TransMilenio stop and the National Archive, it had a grill, a crate of soda, and two items on the menu: cheese-stuffed flour arepas, brittle and salty, and juicy chorizo on a stick, both liberally sauced with bright-orange, earth's-core-hot habanero salsa. Please Jesus let the man in the cowboy hat still be there next week.... In other street-food news, the Vendies were this weekend (we were too slow to get tickets). The dosa man of Washington Square Park emerged victorious. With two friends at nearby NYU, I'll have to make the trek soon, I guess.