A 230-year-old chapel of mud and grass was burned to the ground during Holy Week; locals alleged arson committed by indigenous people in response to land and education disputes.
Around one in the morning on Thursday, a group of people allegedly arrived at the chapel in the San Andres de Pisimbala community in Inza, a municipality of the Cauca department. The roof of dried grass was quickly engulfed in flames, and within one hour, 90% of the building was destroyed.
Mauricio Castillo Morales, Mayor of the municipality of Inza, said that the incident occurred in the context of confrontations between communities, and that it is too early to point fingers, El Tiempo reported. An investigation was expected to begin shortly after the flames subsided.
Multiple Colombian news sources report the culpability of indigenous actors, though responsibility for the incident is not yet clear to authorities.
A conflict between peasant and indigenous communities has embroiled the region for several years. The indigenous community looks to reclaim their autonomous territory and to have all armed forces removed from their land. Land disputes and education are among the topics causing the turmoil.
The chapel, completed in 1785, was an important relic of early architecture in Colombia, and one of the few remaining with grass roofs. It was also a significant tourist attraction in the area.