Camilo Torres was a Latin American catholic priest who was born in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, on February 3rd 1929. He came from a rich family that was an upper class, his father being a privileged medical doctor. His family had liberty in its outlook of politics. He lived together with his family in Europe in the 1930s (Torres et al 2016). Upon his graduation from secondary school in the year 1946, he went back to Colombia where he joined a seminary. He was led by his Christianity into becoming horrified with injustice, social inequalities as well as extreme poverty. It is during this time that he began undergoing political evolutions slowly and he often held discussions with his fellow students at the seminary (Norden and Procinor 2000).
He later travelled to Leuven in Belgium to pursue sociology. He was ordained as a priest while he was a student at the National University. He started organizing a political group that later ended him up in Paris with various co-thinkers from Colombia, who were passionate in conducting sociological studies of the Colombian reality. He was able to graduate in this in the year 1958, having succeeded in his thesis which he later published bearing the title “Proletarianisation of Bogotá”. This publication was a significant work describing Colombian poverty. It has been read widely by many people in Colombia as well as throughout Latin America (Torres and Broderick 2002).
After going back to his home city Bogotá, he focused on intensifying his political work and dimensions. He did this by organizing students and exploiting layers in his neighborhoods. He started rebellions against the traditional hierarchical customs that were rampant in most catholic churches at the time. This quickly led him into severe conflict and disagreement with the high priests and other leaders of the church (Norden and Procinor 2000).
The conservative leaders of the Catholic Church disregarded thinking of radical anti-capitalism, and were unable to agree with his student organization. This led to his expulsion from the National University positions that he held and funding on his academic study on sociology was withdrawn (Brienza 2007). He was politically developing and evolving at a fast pace. Regardless of his Christianity and priesthood, he began being disgusted with misery and extreme poverty that he was witnessing (Castrillón 2003).
He aimed mainly at seeking and finding significant explanation as well as the causes that led to this inequality in the society. This steered him into adopting an interesting blend of ideas of Christianity and Marxism. He realized that it was very essential to bring societal transformation in Colombia and dismantle the chains of imperialism that were clearly depicted in the societies. He advocated for fresh and reformed society that had a socialist character. He was able to draw sharper conclusions from practical experiences of his own life (Broderick 1975).
In 1958, Camilo Torres tried to engage in mobilizing against the Colombian government. He formed a regime consisting of two parties that he named National Front. An agreement was made, in 1958, by the political elites in Benidorm which is a small town Spain. They agreed to share power of the state between the conservatives and the liberals, ignoring the other people in the state (Castrillón 2003). This was a strategy used by the traditional elites, businesspeople as well as landowners aiming at legitimizing the status quo and alternating the presidency in addition to splitting the major political positions. This made it impossible for the minority parties and groups to be represented in the government (Brienza 2007).
In the year 1964 and 1965, he started organizing a movement that he termed as “The United Front of the People”. With this movement, he organized frequent meetings, campaigns as well as demonstrations in the streets, universities, neighborhoods as well as factories. However, the oppression from the Colombian state was very severe, leading to hunting down of many activists of this movement (Castrillón 2003).
It is at this point that Camilo Torres realized the necessity of smashing the whole capitalist state. However, he was puzzled by the mechanisms that he would use to achieve this (Broderick 1975). He decided to establish contacts with the National Liberation Army (NLA). This was an army of guerrillas that had been founded recently from the inspirations of the Cuba events as well as ideas of Che Guevara. Camilo later decided to drop all his activities in the mass movement. He instead joined the national Liberation Army forces up on the mountains, in October 1965. Torres had already founded a political coalition that focused on boycotting the presidential elections of 1965 (Broderick 1975).
Camilo died on the 15th day of February 1966 while he was trying to combat against the Colombian state army. This was his first involvement in the rebellion against the army. He was shot by the Colombian army as he tried to take a riffle away from a Colombian army soldier that he had killed (Torres and Bayona 2010). His dead body has been missing till the time he was murdered. Camilo Torres was a revolutionary catholic priest who left legacy in his fight and rebellion for the equality of all people in the society. Though he died in the guerrilla fights against the state army, he is widely celebrated for his brevity that led him into facing the severe and last consequences of his rebellion (Brienza 2007).
Brienza, H. (2007). Camilo Torres: Sacristán de la guerrilla. Buenos Aires: Capital Intelectual.
Broderick, W. J. (1975). Camilo Torres: A biography of the priestguerrillero. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
Castrillón, A. D. (2003). Camilo Torres Tenorio. Bogotá, DC: Academia Colombiana de Historia.
Norden, F., & Procinor Ltda. (2000). Camilo, el cura guerrillero. Bogotá: Ministerio de Cultura.
Torres, C., & Bayona, Z. J. (2010). Fuentes para la historia Del pensamiento de Camilo Torres Tenorio.
Torres, C., & Broderick, J. (2002). Camilo Torres. Bogotá, Colombia: El Ancora Editores.
Torres, C., López, G. L., & Herrera, F. N. (2016). Camilo Torres Restrepo: Profeta de la liberación: antología (teológica) política.