The heroes of my neighborhood

By Pedro Rivera


It’s 3 AM in the morning in Popayán, a small city in the south of Colombia, suddenly, the street alarms interrupt the sleep of one particular suburb called Palacé, but it’s no surprise, all the neighbors know what’s going on: Constructors  are trying to install a high-intensity transmission equipment hidden in the night in the middle of a neighborhood inhabited by families with children and elder citizens.

Elder citizens stops illegal constructions

Elder citizens stops illegal constructions


The construction obtained illegally the building permissions from local authorities; the building license was granted for a tower of 4 apartments, one apartment per floor – in a place where are only 2 floors are allowed because of ground instability. But the schemes of the building were totally different, no public services or bathrooms, kitchens or even a place to place a bed to sleep in. Also it has two high-intensity communication antennas that were not in the plans for the building and are not allowed for in buildings designated for living. The video (recorded by a drone hired by the community) shows how those equipments are disguised as water tanks.



Colombia laws state that high intensity communication equipment [1] mustn’t be installed in places with high-density population, it also prohibits those installations closer to other buildings than at least 10 meters (depending on the intensity of electromagnetic fields of equipments this length can vary between 10 and 500 meters). That’s why, when the community figured out what was going on, they decided to organize themselves to do something about it.


First they went to local authorities with legal actions that proposed the suspension of the works in the building, but that has not stopped the construction company which usually sent people with masks to spy on citizens, sent work teams during the midde of the night and bribed politicians. Right now, neighbors are being intimidated by masked people, local authorities and expensive-lawyers from different companies to give up and let them build the tower.


This situation is more common in the country than people might think, it happens a lot across the city and the country because the Colombian government is promoting an aggressive (and failed, as most people in the industry claim) plan to boost its tech industry by setting up infrastructure without bothering about local communities.



These elder citizens are my heroes and this article is a little tribute to them, they are facing a faceless government, faceless corporations and masked people – to protect their homes, their grandsons and the neighborhood where their children grew up, in midst of the corruption of local authorities. They are teaching us that right things are right, no matter whether you’re old or young, that we can locally work together and organize ourselves to protect ourselves against the government (whoaw job is, ironically, to protect us), and that everyone can face leviathan if we have something precious to protect and to fight for. I’m very proud to live in the same place they live in and to be able to salute them everyday.


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