Our Lady of the Assassins

Our Lady of the Assassins is Columbian film supposedly based on the real life account of Columbian writer Fernando Jaramillo, who first published this story in his book of the same title. The film begins with Fernando returning home to Medellín, Colombia after 30 years away in Spain. It is later revealed that Fernando has returned home in order to die, as he has deep suicidal thoughts, which help to explain his rather cavalier attitude to the violence that surrounds him throughout the film.

His attitudes about Columbian and what it has become in his absence is shaped largely through his younger lover Alexis, who, intially unknown to Fernado, is actually a hit man and enforcer for a gang. Alexis is himself subject to several attacks on his life on the part of other gangs. The violence itself is given little regard and the presence of police largely absence, playing on Columbia’s status as being largely a drug state. Ricardo Vargas states in “State, Esprit Mafioso, and Armed Conflict in Colombia,” The lack of legitimate institutions to resolve conflicts and the fact that many of those involved in the drug trade came from lower class sectors previously denied access to the region’s sources of wealth led to an unprecedented wave of violence.” It is this version of Columbia that Fernando now finds himself, and despite his wish to die, the Columbia he must live in.

The problem for Fernando and Alexis as well as the nation of Columbia as a whole is that the constant violence and drug presence becomes something of a self-fullfilling prophecy. Alexis is eventually gunned down by a rival gang and dies. Fernando then finds another young lover in Wilmar, who turns out to be one of the two men that killed Alexis. Fernando stops from killing Wilmar only when he discovers that Alexis had first killed Wilmar’s brother. This cycle of revenge has played itself out many times in Columbia as rival drug gangs fight amongst themselves and the government, with rebel forces also taking part in the violence.

The problem for Columbians is that the violence and drug money have confused the issue so much that, like Fernando, the delineation of sides in the conflict is not always clear. Vargas writes, “ The buying of votes, made possible by the large sums of money controlled by drug traffickers, allowed those involved in the marijuana trade to acquire political power, including elections to local councils s or Congress.” Without a trust in government, or even a sense of respect, violence and self-interest is going to become more and more prominent, which is what has happened to Columbia since Fernando has been away.

An undeniable piece in Columbia’s on going problem is the United States. According to The National Security Archive: War in Columbia Congress has insisted that U.S. security assistance for Colombia be restricted to combating the drug trade rather than fighting the long-standing civil war. It is hard to argue that the US has met large scale success in this area, as Columbia remains a political mess, and drugs continue to enter the US from Columbia. The problem is that the drug economy and culture as been so lucrative. Forrest Hylton points out in Evil Hour in Columbia, “The assassination of Minister of Justice Lara Bonilla in 1984 paved the way for a rebirth in the drug trade. The day of Lara Bonilla’s burial the price of a kilo of coca paste was 200,000 pesos; a week later it cost 800,000 pesos. Narco-investment in land grew rapidly.” With this type of money to be made, there is going to be violence without a strong institutionalized government capable of stopping it, something Columbia severely lacks. Our Lady of the Assassins, while not offering a solution to the problem, does help put more of a human face on a drug problem in Columbia, which the majority of Americans only consider from a US perspective in the “war on drugs.”