Since the time of the Yukon gold rush, we’ve known how lucrative the extraction of gold can be. Today, it continues to be one of the most sought-after resources - and the residents of Marmato, Colombia are struggling to keep their way of life alive.
The film Marmato takes you on a journey to the small resource town by the same name and exposes you to their way of life. The residents of the town lead humble lives while exposing themselves to the dangerous elements that surround them. Each morning before heading to the mines, husbands and fathers kiss their loved ones goodbye as they venture into gold mines, exploding dynamite to extract gold. Others in the community fear that their houses are eventually going to slide down the mountain from the man-made earthquakes.
And although these fears are genuine, the community feels an attachment and belonging to their gold mines - one they aren’t willing to give away.
The film follows the town’s six-year struggle as Canadian resource extraction companies intervene with Marmato’s mines. The dichotomy between foreign investors and community-based economies is apparent as protesters take to the streets, all in the name of fairness and justice.
Marmato represents a fairly familiar case of international development and resource management at the expense of a community. All too often, we’ve seen extraction for the sake of globalization and mass production without an appropriate understanding of how two fairly distinct communities could come together to work on a common cause.
Take a look at any case of European colonization - many African and North American instances come to mind - to see numerous accounts of mismanaged relationships. The difference between many of those instances and Marmato is that we now have decades of learnings that extraction companies could learn from and take into account.
Marmato is not an argument against extraction (although that has its merits, too) - it’s an call for community-based development and making rational decisions that truly benefit both parties. A lack of honest dialogue, participation and communication from both groups is what causes rioting, protests, and conflict that counters progress. The film shows us how destructive humans can be when we don’t consider the needs and wants of others, and I hope that it brings needed attention to the community of Marmato.