Marginal de la Selva: Roads and the colonización of Colombia’s National Territories

Authors: Zannah Matson*,
Topics: Landscape, Latin America, Historical Geography
Keywords: infrastructure, coloniality, landscape, colonización, Colombia
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 32
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


To the east of the easternmost ridge of the Colombian Andes is an infrastructural route known as the Carretera Marginal de la Selva – the highway at the edge of the jungle. If ever completed, the highway would stretch from Venezuela to Ecuador across Colombia’s eastern territories. The Image of this highway as a continuous eastern infrastructural system was first proposed in 1963 when Colombia entered into an agreement with Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela to plan and build a project that would facilitate trade through the region without the need of crossing the Andes, thereby saving travel time and trips along treacherous mountain roads.

While the Colombian portion of the highway has been stalled indefinitely, the impacts of its plans and constructed segments have been significant in reshaping the eastern territories of the country. The design of the highway was a part of a larger efforts for the colonización of the peripheral national territories in the east throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Reading the archives of the highway alongside contemporaneous plans for agricultural and mineral extraction in the national territories, this paper seeks to understand the relationship between the Marginal de la Selva and the wider structures of coloniality. By attending to the entangled history of this iconic highway, this paper will argue that while the infrastructure was adopted and championed as a strategy for international market connectivity, it had profound implications as a system of state land control and resource extraction for centralized wealth accumulation.

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