Colombia Accompanier Report: We Still Live in Fear

By Eddie Rosa-Fuentes

The farmers told us that it was a regular day. They had waked up early to work, to do their regular stuff. But just like that, members of the paramilitary killed three men of their community of La Alemania. At the beginning the farmers were confused. However, they did know one thing: they needed to flee. If they stayed, they could be killed next.

After several years of being forced to live away from their land, they again occupied what was theirs. For six years now they have been living and working their land. In peace? I don’t know. I am not sure. Because ever since the paramilitary left in 2010, as one farmer, Don Manuel, said, the residents of La Alemania always fear being displaced again.

This is the community in La Alemania. It is a community that lives in simplicity. They have no electricity and no water supply. The water they need they take from the limited rain of the season, now a season of drought because of the El Niño phenomenon. The food, which was amazing, was made in a fireplace, with firewood. In that fireplace they cooked everything, their rice, their yucca, their yams. Their small houses, made of some kind of wood, had no ventilation. We stayed in a concrete house, where the bats were flying around us all night. That helped a little bit, because that way, we were able to feel a little bit of the air flowing. Yes…God bless the bats in the middle of a hot and humid place when there is not a fan. Bucket bath was an everyday experience.

Life was simple, but people lived with the fear of being displaced again. Why were they displaced? Officially there was no reason for their displacement and no official reason for the killing. However, in this community with more than 500 hectares of arable land and great land for livestock, it is not difficult to deduce that big landowners want the farmers’ land resources. Multinational corporations need resources to expand. So they have hired “hitmen,” or I should say paramilitaries, to take these people off their land. Nárcido, one of the community leaders, was telling us what multinationals want to cultivate and to do in those lands: grow palm trees (for palm oil), and other exotic crops. They even want to take the land for natural gas. Rich with all those resources, this simple community still lives with the fear of being displaced again.

Could you imagine what it means to be in your home, but to never know when you might need to leave it because someone might just come and kill you or your neighbor? Can that be called home? Nárcido has even received a death threat. Somehow he keeps it together, and keeps working in and with the community.

We U.S. citizens, with U.S. passports and with our U.S. privilege of living in a “first world” country, came and visited this community. The U.S. has many multinational corporations who go to countries like Colombia and steal the lands of the people, using many strategies; violence is one of those. The U.S. is a country where we are more focused on ourselves than on “the others,” where we are not used to being “others” because we are the ones in power.

As U.S. representatives, what can we do? How can we accompany them, not to save them, because we are not saviors, but be with them in their struggle, knowing that at any time, as allies, we can just decide to come back to the comfort of our homes, without the fear of being kicked out? I have no answer, but I am willing to work to find an answer, even if it means sometimes to negate myself for the sake of others.

Are you willing to struggle and feel the discomfort of accompaniment?