Juan Elias

Out of War

Biography

Juan Elias was born in Auguachica in the year 1981. Juan Elias's childhood was privileged. He lived in a huge rambling mansion where his father led a dental practice. Every weekend Juan Elias's family ventured to a farm 10 miles away. This was a meaningful place for his father because he was always a farmer by heart. When Juan Elias was a child Juan was diagnosed with Hepatitis. Juan's parents were always protective of Juan because he had Hepatitis. Juan and his older brother Andres always got along well. Juan and his brother Andres had a passion for survival games and they bonded by playing these games. In 1989 Luche, Juan's cousin moved into his house with his aunt and three other children. In the same year, 1989 Juan and his family had to move into a cramped apartment in Auguachica. This was a huge change for Juan living in a mansion to a cramped apartment. In 1990, all of Juan's family's cattle was stolen and men showed up at the farm demanding food, shelter, and money in return for their "protection" services. After numerous threats towards Juan and his family, his mother finally decided to move to the town Bucaramanga in 1994. There Juan transferred schools to the Jose Maria Campo Serrano. Juan looked at the school as a "island of peace" In 1995 Juan and his family moved back to Auguachica while the violence ceased. In 1995 Mayor Rincon appointed Juan child mayor. Juan talked to schools about creating a more peaceful and tolerant atmosphere and pushed for children's rights. In May 1996 Mayor Rincon asked Juan if he could represent Aguachica for a workshop being organized by UNICEF. At the workshop the children discussed child rights and formed the Children's movement for Peace, an organization which promoted child rights.

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Geographical Information on Juan Elias's hometown in Colombia

Juan Elias lived in Aguachica, Colombia with his family and close relatives. Aguachica is a small city located south of Cesar Department Colombia. Aguachica was founded in 1748 by Jose Lazaro de Rivera. Aguachica is spread out in 338.1 square miles. The average temperature in Aguachica is 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Aguachica is a very mountainous area and is part of the Cordillera Oriental mountain range. There are two major rivers that run through Aguachica including the Magdalena and the Lebrija rivers. The altitude of this region is between 200 and 2150 meters above sea level.




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Description of Environment and Demographics of Aguachica.

According to a recent 2005 census, Aguachica is home to 80,789 people. Out ofo those people 51% are female while 49% being male. Only 2.1% of Aguachica's population lives in cramped apartments like Juan Elias. Unlike the United States only 30% of the people living in Aguachica own a telephone line. With 90% of the people having access to electricity. 73% of the citizens running water. 31% of the population in Colombia commit robberies while 3 out of 20 people in the country Colombia commit a homicide. Aguachica is no different with very high crime rates. Many bodies can be observed littering the dirt roads in Aguachica. I can conclude from these facts that Aguachica is not a pleasant environment. Many displaced people in Aguachica are desperately poor and end up living in the slums. Juan Elias's living conditions have been degraded from a huge mansion to a cramped apartment. The farm that Juan Elias's family owned at the mansion covered 31 acres with 2 rivers running through the property. After moving to the apartment in Bucaramanga Juan Elias and his family have since moved back to the large rambling mansion in Aguachica.


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What Events Caused Juan Elias Want to Fight for Change?

Juan Elias decided to fight for change because of the horrific events that he has experienced during his childhood. When Juan was young he witnessed a bunch of fights on the street at night routinely. Before Juan went to school in the morning, he was often woken by gun-fire. While Juan was on his trek to school Juan saw daily the tragic evidence from the night before such as blood on the sidewalks and bullet riddled buildings. When Juan was just 8 years old he saw a man shot and killed by an armed group of people. A few days later, Juan and his cousins were outside playing and a bomb exploded a few blocks away. That year, all of their cattle were stolen, and some men they didn't know showed up at their farm demanding food, money, and shelter for their, "protection services."Juan also witnessed the victims at the morgue not far from his father's office. Because of these events Juan thought he understood how critical the war could effect the families involved in it, but he realized that when war hits you personally, you want to take a step towards violence. After his father was murdered Juan Elias really understood what he was fighting for. Juan felt angry after his father was killed but then he knew that what he felt (anger) was the trap for many people that have experienced similar tragedies. Juan knew that he would not fall for the same trap so after his father was killed, he just decided to fight even more for peace.
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What has Juan done to promote change?

Juan Elias is currently working together with UNICEF to work for change in a peaceful way to promote children's rights. Juan Elias goes to schools all throughout colombia to talk about his ideas for a change towards peace, and to get people interested in a peaceful colombia. He thought up a referendum for peace in colombia. The referendum is, "Do you reject violence in order to promote Aguachica to a model municipality for peace?" Juan Elias stages concerts for peace. He introduces performers and sings peace songs and plays the guitar.

What is Juan Elias Hoping for in the Future?

Juan Elias is hoping to convert Aguachica into a model municipality for the rest of Colombia to follow in their footsteps. Juan is tire of this conflict because it has been going on for so long. Juan just wants the conflict to stop. Colombia has been ranked as the homicide capital of the world and this is no doubt disappointing to Juan. Because the conflict has affected Juan personally after his father was killed, Juan has larger expectations for the end result of Colombia. An ideal Colombia for Juan would be no violence, no stealing, and no drugs
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