Cucuta

Cúcuta is a regional Colombian capital city that lies on the physical and social frontier of the country. Considered mid-sized for Colombian standards, the destiny of its nearly 1 million inhabitants has been closely tied to the geopolitical intricacies and tensions between Colombia and Venezuela.

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Cúcuta is a regional Colombian capital city that lies on the physical and social frontier of the country. Considered mid-sized for Colombian standards, the destiny of its nearly 1 million inhabitants has been closely tied to the geopolitical intricacies and tensions between Colombia and Venezuela. The city and its surrounding metropolitan area face a series of security challenges that are a window into the past and future of the Colombian internal armed conflict. Indeed, all major armed groups that have waged war against the State and its various governments have an active armed presence in the area. Guerrilla, paramilitary groups, organized criminal groups fight each other and the army for control of lucrative illegal activities (coca production, contraband, human trafficking etc.) And yet, many Cucuteños are more concerned about access to education and formal jobs, and urban security, trying to navigate the challenges of daily life. 

As a border city Cúcuta faces some additional challenges. When binational relations reached a critical point in 2015 the border was closed. Many Colombian families living in Venezuela were singled out and expelled from the country.  What had been a dynamic of open, fluid border crossing was abruptly closed, shocking Colombians and Venezuealns on both sides of the border. The prohibition of border crossings for people and goods interrupted daily life for thousands, shattering the fabric of people’s family and friendship networks built on both sides of the border. In the following years Colombia experienced an unprecedented influx of migrants. In 2019 alone over 1 million Venezuelans entered Colombia, most through Cúcuta.. Even when the border was officially closed, thousands crossed over through illegal paths controlled by gangs of human traffickers. The city became a kind of temporary foster home for thousands trying to make their way to other parts of the country and the continent and thousands others stayed in Cúcuta. 

Now, as police authorities call for higher investment and deployment of surveillance technology we ask what would the impacts be on the citizens and the city’s social contract when so many of Cúcuta’s citizens’ basic needs are yet to be met.The way the city has adapted and navigated these challenges made it a relevant choice for study and intervention. We have started phase 1 of our Cúcuta project and have much more on the works! 

Phase 1: Our Edgelands Method starts with foundational research. We conducted a deep literature review on Cúcuta’s current security policy and border dynamics as well as the current events and hot-button issues in the city. We conducted interviews with more than 20 key stakeholders from all backgrounds  and experiences: academics, community organizers, public servants, international organizations and local NGOs.

The aim of these interviews was to understand the main security and structural challenges faced by people in Cúcuta, and the changing dynamics from a restricted border, increased migration and deteriorating security situation.

We condensed and analyzed this data into a Cúcuta Diagnostic Report that will be discussed and circulated among our partners and experts in early June. This will serve as an input for phase 2 of Edgelands Cúcuta with field research and in person events.

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