“Valora el agua – como a tu vida»: Value water - as much as your life.
Water flows through San Carlos both literally and figuratively.
The town boasts three rivers, seventy-six waterfalls, and hundreds of streams that peel off the surrounding mountains. Its farming land owes its fertility to this abundance. It also connects the locals: water is a communal space for Sancarlitanos, who spend the warm evenings congregating around the town’s cascades.
San Carlos’ great natural wealth, however, has also been a curse.
When the Colombian government began funding hydro-electric megaprojects during the late 1960s, many of the town’s residents were forced to leave their land. Others living near the projects, moreover, were not consulted about the environmental, social, and economic impacts of dam-building.
By the 1980s, San Carlos was producing around one third of Colombia’s electricity. This strategic importance meant that armed groups would compete for the region’s control for the next three decades. Water, a most essential element to life, brought a wave of death to San Carlos.
As such, the simplicity of this mural belies the complex historic, social, and cultural relationship that San Carlos has with water.
Today, San Carlos’ water has re-claimed its original function: a creator of natural beauty, and a primary source of life. It should be valued - as much as life itself.