Piece Comment

Review of Homelands Regained

An excellent production from the catalog of Homelands Productions. In Columbia's Cauca region in the early 1990s, Paez Indian guerrillas were forcibly taking "back" land that had been controlled for hundreds of years by families of Spanish descent. The story is relatively obscure and is now some fifteen years old, but as told by Cecilia Vaisman and Alan Weisman, it's timeless and universal. Conquerers (or Conquistadors) may claim indigenous lands, but the story does not end there. Twenty generations later, the descendents of those driven off may seize an opportunity and rise up. When that happens, it may or may not be fair.

The story is told in broad, literary terms, almost like a fable, but is also solidly reported with vivid details and sound-rich scenes. Narrator Cecilia Vaisman's delivery is understated but fresh and engaging. An Indian flute provides lovely accents and counterpoints.

Characteristically, this Homelands piece embraces complexity. The Spanish-descended families that have been driven off "their" land are not presented as villains. They express puzzlement and genuine loss. The Paez Indians feel justified in taking the farms away: "Now it's our turn," says one of the Paez. But the story won't end here, either. As the piece ends, the Spanish former landholders are the ones waiting, biding their time until the land becomes available again and they can take "back" what they believe to be rightfully theirs. "Even if we have to wait fifty years."