Not many would have imagined that an egg could symbolize the dissatisfaction and frustration that an increasingly vocal number of young people feel towards the realities of the country and their main protagonists. But in Colombia, an egg has come to symbolized young protesters’ favored weapons of mass dishonor.
The egg’s new found use arises from the slang phrase “tener huevo” [to have an egg] that roughly signifies that something or someone has no value or that his/her actions do not mean anything. An egg, compared to other items that have become symbols of protests such as shoes, is harmless. Eggs are usually cracked on personalities’ heads, as was the case with former Presidential advisor Jose Obdulio Gaviria, or desks, as experienced by former Defense minister Juan Manuel Santos.
Recently the egg movement, called “tienen huevo”, received great publicity when the target person became President Uribe himself. The spectacle, however, was toned down and Uribe was merely handed an egg by protester Liliana Pardo while he gave a speech at the International Forum on Social Responsibility. Even with Uribe’s attempts to turn the unexpected and embarrassing situation to his advantage, the message was clear: there is growing discontent with the government’s actions. However, the government is not the only target of dissatisfaction, which gives this youth movement of “tienen huevo” more legitimacy and vitality.
This is a spontaneous youth movement. It started when a group of students founded a university newspaper in 2001. From there it jumped to a blog. In 2007 it won the prize of National blog given by prestigious weekly news magazine SEMANA. The movement is truly independent, without the backing of any interest or political group.
The “tienen huevo” movement is mainly represented by students from the middle to the upper class. It is fair to assume that this group of students belongs to well-off families given that in Colombia the poorer classes have fewer options to finish high school, let alone enter university. Therefore, if students that have not been directly affected by government policies and actions by the guerrilla (or even the paramilitaries) reach this level of consciousness and vociferousness then it truly indicates the kind of indignation of a wider sector of young Colombians.
When looking at the activity of critical upper and middle class youth on the Internet, a similar phenomenon is visible. A seemingly growing number of independently thinking youth voice out their opinion through sarcasm or humor on weblogs, Facebook and Twitter. It is difficult to say if among the people – who ironically have benefited most with Uribe’s security policy and suffered the least with his economic policy – there is a growing disagreement with the current administration’s policy. However, it is certain that this more fortunate youth has found the channels to voice their opposition outside mainstream media and attempt to use unusual actions such as cracking eggs to invite the general public to be more critical.
Typical of this movement is that it does not stop at protesting government’s policies and scandals. In an interview following the egg-incident, Liliana Pardo also criticized the guerrilla and the paramilitaries as well as other politicians belonging to opposition parties. In other words, all sides of the conflict that have contributed to shape the current state of the country tienen huevo. This is perhaps the most important element, given that none of the sectors in the political environment can dismiss this youth movement by claiming that it belongs to their enemy’s front, because these ‘kids’ are verbally and explicitly rejecting all established, legal or illegal partakers in Colombia’s political spectrum.
Utilizing an egg to express people’s disappointment and frustrations may be expected to become more widespread. In a country such as Colombia where disagreements are often resolved with bullets, this is a huge step towards becoming a more civilized society. Although it is more significant that youth movements with independence, and no agenda other than to protest what they perceive to be the hypocrisy and lies of the political actors, are alive and emerging. It may be that through the expressions of this group, Colombia will see its polarization itself attacked instead of one pole attacking the other.