Birds of Passage: 5th Gustavus Latinx Film Festival Posted on February 26th, 2021 by

Pájaros de verano (Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra) is an indigenous narrative, detailing the corrosion of a native Wayuu family caught within the 1970s drug trade. This film is not meant to be an easy watch, but a slow digestion that leaves the audience craving more about Colombia’s economic and social situation. After viewing the film, students across Gustavus gathered to participate in an online deliberation, hosted by Professor Angelique Dwyer and facilitated by Dr. Suzanne Wilson and Dr. Carlos Mejía. These additional resources provided students with information and context to appreciate the film and kick-off the 5th Latinx FilmFestival.

Pájaros de verano attempts to capture the authenticity of the rising Colombian drug trade during the 70s, while providing culturally accurate appropriations. The directors chose to emphasize the intercultural correctness of setting and language, rather than falsely assuming the role of the Wayuu tribes. In this case, Dr. Meija shared how the film originated as an important deliberation for facilitators to educate cast members on the native-Wayuu language and the significance of cultural appropriation in justifying native-tribe traditions and beliefs. These discussions contribute an immense role in the success of a film, drawing questions about the loss of diversity if the directors decided to withhold the Wayuu language or the word messengers or the establishment of power in native families.

In an effort to showcase the Wayuu originality, the film captures the corrosive decline of the Colombian society and economy with the increasing demand for psychoactive drugs. Dr. Suzanne Wilson explains that the trading began as a form of commerce: exchanging jewelry, crops, and animals on routes leading throughout Colombia. Eventually, this trade turned into a tighter form of contraband, and later illicit drugs. It is worth mentioning that these Colombian actors monopolized routes outside of Colombia with the influence and reliance on the United States. Several years later, the United States recognizes the commercialization of the drug trade, paying large quantities of money to the Colombian government, attempting to terminate the routes. Predictably, Wilson details this payout as the transferring of drug routes out of Colombia and directly into the United States, ceasing to exhume the War on Drugs.

Pájaros de verano is not entirely about the corruption of illicit drugs on Colombia, but also the destruction of trade on family and native groups. Although there aren’t any direct solutions to the problem, the film captures an understanding of the effects of trade: violence. The reflexive way to display the illicit trading of drugs and firearms helps the viewer question what a person will jeopardize for money, and how this influences the Wayuu tribe customs. In the film, Rapayet enters the trade of marijuana as an easy collection of money. However, his illegal actions pose a threat to both him, and his family, let alone the destruction of his Wayuu identity. The film follows Rapayet pledging a dowry for Zaida and honoring the values of the native tribe.

Throughout, his involvement with contraband becomes more serious, and replaces his own respect for Wayuu customs and language with monetary possessions. The film is a complex retelling of the effects of drug trade on Colombian economy and society, as well as family-oriented native tribes. The images are striking and filled with beauty, often using birds as a tool of foreshadowing. Although Pájaros de verano appears as a simple production, the complexity lies within the corrosiveness of illicit drugs on families, tribes, and the Colombian region in the 1970s. The explanations provided by both Dr. Meija and Dr. Wilson leave the viewers desiring more information about the Wayuu tribe and reaching out to research the effects of the War on Drugs. This is definitely a great film, and one everyone should check out.

Austin Witt ’22

The 5th Gustavus Latinx Film Festival is made possible thanks to a PRAGDA Spanish Film Club Grant awarded by Spain’s Ministry of Culture. It is co-sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures; and the Latin American, Latinx and Caribbean Studies Program.

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We hope you can join us for the next showing and Q&A, Perro Bomba.


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