In the midst of violence and conflict, the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó has created an alternative path – one that embodies nonviolence, pacifism, and peacebuilding – for over 25 years. While the longevity and sustainability of their project is admirable, it is not accidental. Throughout the years they have acquired an extensive set of nonviolent tactics dedicated to fostering community, strengthening their ideals, and allowing them to create a new way of living. Everything, from the relationship with their lands, to the production of their food, has an essential role to play in the way they create community and resist violence, destruction and war on a daily basis. 

IFOR Austria accompanier Michaela Soellinger and Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective accompanier John Walsh accompanied the Peace Community during a collective day of work last week, documenting the sugar making process, from cutting down the sugar cane, to slowly cooking sugar water over a wood fire for many hours. Sugar production in the Peace Community is not only designed to produce sugar for cooking (or panela, the Spanish word for unprocessed sugar), but to provide a sustainable, organic product that is collectively produced, reducing dependence on large-scale sugar production. This locally-produced product is yet another way the Peace Community resists violence, war, and environmental destruction. 

A sugar cane field in the Peace Community. 

Upon reaching maturity, the sugar cane is cut down by hand.

 

Sugar cane is pressed to release its juices, which are transferred into large pots for cooking.

 

The cane juice is then cooked over a wood fire stove. It must boil for many hours, while being stirred constantly. Peace Community members take turns stirring the large pots.

As the sugar juices cook, they turn from a light yellow color to a darker honey color, thickening as they do. Impurities are removed from the pot, leaving behind a golden honey.

The longer the sugar cane is cooked, the darker its color becomes. Here, the sugar has thickened into a dense honey, ready for consumption.