Gloria Estella Nupán Cañares

Gloria was the Librarian for Peace during 2017 in the rural vereda of La Carmelita
in the municipality of Puerto Asis, Department of Putumayo.
The Mobile Public Library of La Carmelita is located five hours from the Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento Public Library
, which Gloria has run for 25 years in the city of La Hormiga (Valle del Guamuez), Putumayo.

    Gloria tells us:
    "I completed a Bachelors degree in Elementary School Education with an emphasis in human rights; eight semesters of social and community psychology with the National Open and Distance University. I am a librarian by vocation and a product of the different workshops and training offered by librarians from the National Library and the Ministry of Culture. Belonging to the National Network of public libraries, I know that this system has contributed to linking volunteers who promote reading, an activity that strengthens the social fabric fragmented by various problems that affect the municipality of Valle del Guamuez and the Putumayo department.
    I have been affiliated with the Luis Carlos Galán Public Library since 1993. Here I have had the opportunity to work with different population groups including children, youth, and adults located in rural and urban areas.
    My main objective as a librarian has been to encourage dialogue, the proper use of free time, self-learning and healthy coexistence within the community by various means including reading books, watching movies, telling stories and presenting personal experiences. I have not done this work alone, but rather together with the Group of Friends of the Library (GAB), which was created in 2004, and with whom we have offered a radio program, a literary magazine and the extension of library services to the most remote areas of the city. From the library we currently focus on working with young children in rural areas.

A note about Gloria

Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento Public Library, La Hormiga, Putumayo, winner of the 2014 National Library Award

Gloria, librarian in La Hormiga

Gloria has promoted peace since the age of 16, when she left her home in a rural area of Valle del Guamuez to attend high school. Tired of the constant onslaught of living amidst guerrillas, paramilitaries and the armed forces, Gloria went to school at night because during the day she worked in the home of a family friend who would later become the mayor of Valle del Guamuez. This friend appointed Gloria as manager of a building that at the time housed what people knew as "the library."
Starting in 1993, Gloria taught herself how to be a professional librarian in that "library." At first she followed her intuition, and later had the opportunity to take advantage of the training and support offered by the Ministry of Culture. This was especially true after 1997, when the "library" became the Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento Public Library. By 2004, when the library collection already exceeded 5,000 books (1 book for every 10 inhabitants) and 200 daily users, it was integrated into the national network of public libraries. Due to the arrival of the internet [and the paramilitaries], those 200 users were reduced to 70. It is at this moment that they decided to take the library to the "veredas" (18 veredas by 2004), where monthly visits became true cultural events for the small communities.
Her work has not only been among books, but also involves promoting peace by exercising dialogue and healthy coexistence among the community from the "book."
"Going back to the time I was living there ..." says Jorge Andrés Cancimance, a 27-year-old member of the Library Friends Group--- "I remember that the possibilities the context offered me were being a guerrilla or being a paramilitary. I was a user of the library as a child, the stories and readings encouraged me to look for the possibility to study in Bogotá, and so I did ". Today he is a professor of Anthropology at the National University of Colombia".
Libraries in the area were forced to reduce many services due to the presence of paramilitaries affiliated with the 'southern block' of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia between 2000-2005. To overcome the vicissitudes of the conflict, libraries had to experiment with new strategies, such as the creation of the Group of Friends of the Library in 2004. Their activities included founding the magazine Katharsis (conceived as a space in which people could express "things that the armed conflict did not allow" and that suverted paramilitary surveillance because they seemed "neutral" and "unthreatening"), and a radio program called "El Hormiguero", which broadcasts cultural programs.
It was necessary to take back territory from the war by facilitating alternatives (film forums, literary gatherings, calls for stories about life in the municipality, or offering the possibility to have a radio program dedicated to music, radiotheater and poetry). Especially important were the programs aimed at children and young people that offered alternatives without attracting attention in order to survive in the midst of conflict.
In 2014, Gloria's work and that of her entire team was recognized when they received the prestigious Daniel Samper Ortege National Public Libraries Award in its first year. In turn, Gloria was included among the 100 most influential and transformative women in Colombia.
All of this work contributed to Gloria being invited, at the end of 2016, to participate in the Libraries for Peace project, for which she took a one-year leave of absence from her duties as librarian in La Hormiga to focus on developing this project in Putumayo.
The first Mobile Public Library for Peace in Colombia was established in the Transitoy Rural Zone for Normalization (ZVTN) of La Carmelita in Puerto Asis, Putumayo. To highlight the importance of this project, then-President Juan Manuel Santos dignified the event with a personal visit and heard Gloria's report, in which, among other things, she narrated one of the dreams she has had since her youth: "The dream is always that before an armed man passes through our houses, through our "veredas", through our farms, there walks a person with books. "
May it be so and may it last!!!
This text is culled from the following articles::



Arriving at the "vereda" of La Carmelita: the guerrillas...

And the librarians...

"The library is a revolutionary institution because it helps you think differently, what you want to think about and how you want to think; it helps you build your world as you want," says Gloria Stella. "That's why I told them in the camp: 'Let's make the revolution but with our heads, now that you are on this side'."
–Revista Arcadia, 17 de abril de 2018

Where is La Carmelita?

The vereda of La Carmelita is in the municipality of Puerto Asís, department of Putumayo. In 2016 this vereda became one of the 23 rural areas where FARC combatants demobilized, and which today are known as Territorial Spaces for Training and Reincorporation (Espacios Territoriales de Capacitación y Reincorporación, ETCR). During the fall of 2017, Puerto Asís was one of the first municipalities in the country where land titles were given to peasants in Putumayo. This distribution was an incentive for the peasants who, after many years of cultivating coca, decided to return to lawfulness by planting legal crops such as cacao, sugar cane, cassava and pepper. According to government sources, by the end of 2017, about 400 property titles were distributed in Putumayo.


Work in La Carmelita

The Mobile Library in La Carmelita was installed in a building in the center of the vereda that the inhabitants use for their social events. There the librarians lived for a year with the inhabitants of the village, organizing writing workshops and promoting reading among young children and adults. There were photography workshops, film cycles, and computer workshops. Campaigns designed at the national level were inserted into the community and resonated with library users. Significant examples of these campaigns were "Paz al Bosque" (Peace in the Forest), in which the National Library of Colombia and the Caro y Cuervo Institute joined forces during 2018 to promote social change through creative writing. Another notable example was the "Books, Color and Jungle" campaign, which in addition to providing books for libraries, helped to promote reading among the youngest through stories and poetry.

The most important thing of all is that all these cultural activities helped to promote dialogue: listening, and above all, speaking. And it is well-known that the well-exercised words help to heal.
The Mobile Public Libraries for Peace are exemplary in their ability to create local support groups. These are called "Library Friends Group" and they help to keep the Library alive in the community. The users of the Carmelita library have thrived despite Gloria's exit--after four months of intense work--for "bureaucratic" reasons. The good luck that helped to mitigate this situation was that Gloria became, at this very moment, one of the most active people in the Library Friends Group, and began working to extend these library services throughout the villages of Putumayo in the national campaign of 2018 called " Public Libraries in the "veredas" and paths of peace."
And the Carmelita library came to be directedb by Luis Alberto Narváez, another of the Librarians for Peace participating in this project.

A good example why all of this is important

"Jaime is the war name of a former combatant. He is a 45-year-old indigenous man from the Putumayo. Jaime joined the FARC when he was 28 years old and never saw his parents again because he was in the mountains. You can clearly see in him the joy of being on the path that leads to being part of civil society.
When he meets Gloria Stella he cannot help but blush a little. The admiration he feels for Prof Stella, as he calls her, translates into a respectful shame.
He says that a few days ago he received a visit from his mother. That the old woman did not stop crying when she saw him alive, and that he did not know how to comfort her. Until it occurred to him to say that everything was going to be fine because he was learning to read. His mother was stunned. Pablo can already spell and is happy to do so.
This is all about miracles.

Included in the article

  • Cristian Valencia, Crónica: una bibliotecaria en el Putumayo". Revista Arcadia.17 de abril 2018
    ords" content="">