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The Skinhead International: Columbia

The voices of members of the Columbian Skinhead gang GRAE ("Anti-Foreigners Skinhead Group") in Bogota, as quoted in the weekly journal Semana (June 1, 1993):

"We are a group of young people of the extreme right. We are called Columbian National Socialists. And we are violend. We fight the drug addicts, vagrants, prostitutes."

"We are not racists, but we believe that each [race] ought to stay in its place."

"We are not copies of the German Skinheads. We don't have to read Hitler to love our country. We simply apply his ideas to our society."

The appearance of neo-Nazi Skinheads (Cabezas Rapadas) in Columbia is recent compared to other countries; the phenomenon drew notice no earlier than February 1993, when GRAE was formed in Bogota. The gang consisted of only seven members then, but their numbers had grown to 40 within a few months, and groups had sprung up in the provincial capital cities of Medellin, Pereira, and Cali. By late spring, their memberships totalled perhaps 80, the members' ages ranging from 16 to 25 years. Since then, however, the Skinhead scene has declined somewhat.

Skinhead Patrol

One rainy summer night the editors of Semana dispatched reporters to observe an evening's activities of members of GRAE in Bogota. The Skins set out to "patrol" the city at 10 p.m. "dressed in green trench coats, tight jeans, steel-toed army boots, and with their heads shaved..." Their aim: to make their presence felt at the favorite gathering places of the city's youth. During the next two or three hours, the reporters witnessed the gang's involvement in the following activities: smaching the windows of a tavern where some people were said to be using drugs; kicking a passerby whose T-shirt bore a U.S. flag ("He is a shitty Yanqui," they said); and finally beating and kicking four male transvestites until all four were unconscious. The reporters heard some cries of encouragement from people on the street: "Viva Columbia!" and "Onward with the cause!"

Foreigners are among the chief victims of the "cause." The Bogota Skins have assaulted natives of Ecuador and European visitors they brand as "hippies." The GRAE Skinheads say, "Columbia must be for the Columbians, and the pride of being born in this country must be restored." Other targets are the impoverished and the homeless. A member of GRAE gives his rationale for violence:

What do we need indigents for? -- or drug addicts or prostitutes? These people produce nothing. They only damage the image of our country. That's why we have to attack them -- and the more we hit them, the better!

For all the dubious ethics of Skinhead tactics, GRAE is cautious about the "character" of prospective members and has rejected many. An acceptable member will either have a steady job or be a student, and will endeavor to be "the best at whatever he does." He will come from a healthy family, and will be neither an alcoholic nor an addict. "We want well educated people with good manners," says a member of the GRAE Skins.

There are other sorts of Skinhead gangs. One of the oldest and most violent originally concentrated its efforts on attacking prostitutes and indigents, but more recently named itself the "Anti-Animal Exploitation Skinheads" (REA) and planned to limit its future activity to ecological themes -- possibly attacking laboratories where animal experiments are conducted, and attempting to put an end to bullfighting. The REA claims 45 members. Another of the smaller groups (without ecological concerns) reportedly has armed its members with pistols and other weapons. As for the Skinhead music, the popular British skinzine Last Chance has publicized two Columbian bands, Assault Detachment and Cerveza Amarza (Bitter Beer). (Anti-Defamation League, 25-26)

Work Cited

Anti-Defamation League. The Skinhead International: A Worldwide Survey of Neo-Nazi Skinheads. New York: Anti-Defamation League, 1995. Anti-Defamation League, 823 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017.

Disclaimer: not all skinheads are neo-nazis or white supremacists. There are many skinheads who are non- or anti-racist, and who come from a variety of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Nizkor recognizes their achievements in anti-racism: they are part of the traditional, non-racist skinhead subculture and are not the perpetrators of the hate crimes discussed here.

Unless otherwise specified, the word "skinhead" within these pages refers only to neo-Nazi and white supremacist skinheads, the perpetrators of hate crimes and participants in racist organizations. We cannot edit the body of the text above, because it was not written by Nizkor, and to change the wording would be fraudulent. Please keep in mind that not all skinheads are racist.

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