Recently I had the opportunity to travel to the Amazon region. Although it was for vacation, I experienced learning about the isolated reality of many people in my country. I also saw the magnitude of the river, heard myths and legends, interacted with animals – I hung a boa constrictor around my neck – and wanted to see 30-meter-long anacondas.
Just like any other tourist, I did the above mentioned activities, and I should say that it was a very cool experience! I also had the chance to speak with two guides, one indigenous and one mestizo, and it was impressive to see their sense of identity as ‘Amazonians’ – that it didn’t matter as much on which side of the border they born (Peru, Colombia, or Brazil). For them, there is no difference. The people live and respect the indigenous tradition, and at the same time, the mestizo culture is strong and has its own identity in the region.
While we traveled by river, I watched many people in their boats transporting fish, plantains, and fruit (a common sight for me after having lived in Chocó); but I also heard, in a subtle, hidden way, that they were transporting cocaine. People said, “Of all the cargo they carry, they’re going to earn more from the cocaine…the people need money and even more right now, since their houses are flooded during the rainy season.” It took me aback to hear this, but it also confirmed the reality that can’t be escaped in the Amazon.
Despite the fact that the Amazon is considered “The Lungs of the World,” the world only thinks of it as a mystical place, full of animals and some exotic customs. The reality is that it is a forgotton place, a place where the people have to struggle, where for six months of each year the houses of the people are flooded because of the growth of the river.
The Amazon – a place that is talked about the world over, but quite forgotton at the same time – makes me reflect about the other places and regions of my country that are almost invisible, that have beautiful countryside and natural riches that magnetically attract armed groups; places where the effects of violence, the conflict, the lack of access to education, health care, and food has generated displacements; small towns where the people are afraid to walk out into the country, not because of dangerous animals like anacondas, but because of fear of treading anti-personnel mines. And so I wonder that if a place as well known as the Amazon is at the same time so forgotten, what can the other communities, who are invisible to the majority of the world, hope for?
For reasons such as these, DOPA (Days of Prayer and Action for Peace) exists, providing resources to tell stories, share prayer requests, and visibilize the communities and churches which are invisible.
At the end of January, Seed participated in a delegation with CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) in the south of the department of Bolívar. We visited Micoahumado, a community that has made repeated efforts to peacefully resist violence and displacement from their territory. They have been victims of landmines and stigmatized as militants of an armed group. What we saw in our visit, however, were men and women committed to their farming and land, committed to continue onward. They were only asking that they be respected.
During our time in Micoahumado, we were able to enjoy nature, but we also heard stories of pain, anguish, and anger, in spite of which their voices were full of hope, resilience, and the struggle to stand firm.
We invite you to read the reflections and thoughts of the Seeders, where we’ll learn more about Micoahumado and its struggle, as well as the contexts of churches in Colombia related to DOPA materials. We will also gain access to resources that invite us to active participation in accompanying and visibilizing the struggle of many communities and churches. We encourage you to remember our different locations in Colombia and their struggles for peace and justice.