Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Two weeks ago a community member died from lung cancer, which was diagnosed just weeks beforehand (healthcare here is depressingly scarce and substandard). On one of our visits to a neighbour we express how difficult this death must be for the family. The response is that this is nothing - nothing in comparison to what that family has had to live through. She goes on to describe the massacre which occurred here in 2000, metres from our house, in which two of the sons from that family were brutally murdered. She recounts that many fled deeper into the jungle, but that she stayed behind, hidden in her house. The mother of the two young men managed to hide in another house, from which she was condemned to witness her two sons hacked to pieces by the paramilitary, powerless to react because it would have resulted in her own death sentence. We are told that that day not a single person could hold back tears as they regrouped in the village and confronted the bodies.

The other night in La Holandita, we went to visit a friend. Her son, who we’d never met before, told us she was not there, but he nonetheless pulled out some chairs and told us to sit.

We sit for a while, listening to music, at times in silence, as small children play with my hair and climb on my lap. Then after some time, he starts talking. It comes out of nowhere. We don’t ask him anything. It doesn’t lead on from anywhere. But just like that his story seeps out. He describes his life zigzagging back and forth through this region in a constant attempt to escape the violence; all the times he has been forcibly displaced; persistent threats to his family; being on the run; almost losing his life upon encountering paramilitaries; triggering a land mine planted by the guerrilla but managing to escape unscathed.

In a way I am amazed by the ease with which people tell their stories here. But it also makes sense. It is a burden which people here must carry, to which they desperately need to give an outlet. They need to be heard and to receive recognition. These are heavy stories. These are stories which build up one on top of the other to weigh down on the listener, so that they too can share some of the burden that these people are forever condemned to carry.