While looking for a graphic to use in a presentation for tomorrow, I found this cartogram of Colombia’s population at a site called World Mapper. A cartogram re-sizes territories on a map, usually using software, to reflect an attribute. This one shows what Colombia’s map might look like if each pixel contained an equal number of people.
The map shows what a heavily urban country Colombia is. About 77 percent urban in 2016, according to the World Bank.
The parts of the country that have most suffered the conflict, including those where coca is most heavily planted, are all scrunched down to almost nothing. They are rural, and often marginal to the country’s civic and economic life. (I added the red labels pointing out some of those regions.)
Similarly scrunched are all of Colombia’s border zones (except the city of Cúcuta along the border with Venezuela, bulging between Catatumbo and Arauca, where the metro population is about 800,000). Like most South American border regions, Colombia’s are sparsely populated. The Pacific Coast, similarly diminished, until the end of the 20th century was a forgotten region with a mostly Afro-Colombian and indigenous population. Today, it may be the most violent part of the country.
This image makes clear how, at least for the past 10 years or so, the rural armed conflict was something that most Colombians only saw on television. It also makes clear why neither peace accord implementation, nor drug production, nor any other rural issue leads polled voters’ concerns in the runup to May 27 presidential elections. In a mostly urban country, political reality works against doing what it takes to bring a rural conflict to a definitive end.