When I arrived to the Christian Peacemaker Team house, I found out that I would be part of more than one community. CPT itself is one of my communities. With them I’m going to share my work days and my free days, my meals and my devotionals. We go to church together and we dance together. They are my family! One my first weeks between orientations, many changes, and trying to get used to the weather, I was introduced to the other communities I’m working with. This story is about one of them.
Alvaro Garcia is a 57-year-old Colombian, he is married and has lived with his family since his childhood in Bella Union, a community that shares territory with the community of El Guayabo.
El Guayabo is a community of small farmers in the Middle Magdalena region, near the shores of the Magdalena river and its history is very interesting. 30 years ago a man, who at the time owned the land, decided to open a branch of the river to help his rice cultivation. When the river flooded, this project literally went down the drain. He lost his crop, and bankrupt, left the farm.
The farmers who live in the area and some of them who had worked for this man, seeing that the land was abandoned, decided to cultivate the land to maintain their livelihood. Some families have moved in, and for nearly 30 years, they have seen children born and grow up in El Guayabo.
Since 2002, the tranquility of Alvaro and his community has been shaken. Rodrigo, son of the former owner came up with the idea that the land belonged to him, and using violence and threats, invaded part of the area, destroying crops and displacing some families. He also made demands against the community members in the hope to become the new owner and displace all the farmers who live there. Rodrigo has employees who spend the day threatening and morally harassing the locals. This conflict is a nightmare to the small farms, who with the help of God and organizations, have tried to find a peaceful resolution.
One small parentheses to explain the importance of this land and the possibly of the real reason why this is so coveted by others: El Guayabo is on the border of three large states of Colombia and is located on the banks of the most important river in the country. Both the river and the “Wall”, the road between the river and the land, are perfect places to transported any kind of illegal goods, which possibly increases the interest in the land.
On April 24, Sunday morning, the breakfast of Álvaro and his family was interrupted with the arrival of the police. Alvaro was accused of many crimes he never committed was taken to prison where he remains today, waiting for an audience. The other leaders, sensing the threat that this could happen to them too, have remain alarmed and wary about the possibility. The little peace that remained in the community is no more.
CPT, Justapaz, and other organizations focused on human rights have advocated for El Guayabo. The authorities are aware of the injustice that they have been living, but unfortunately little has been done to change this scenario. Meanwhile, the community keeps on going and praying to God for this nightmare to be ended soon.
This scenario has showing me that even though the peace agreement is being signed, the violence and injustice in Colombia look far from over. However, the hope and faith that those farmers have in their hearts and that have been shared to their sons and daughter shows that the title of a “violent country” is wrong! Even though there is violence, I’m learning that this is the country of good people who are going to keep fighting for PEACE!