Saturday, June 20, 2009

Una Mujer Desplazada Cuenta Su Historia/A Displaced Woman Tells Her Story

Photos by Jim Stipe on location in Quibdo, Colombia for Catholic Relief Services

Rosa Emilia Cordoba sat on the wooden bench in front of me and matter of factly put forth a story of sheer terror.

She spoke of how her village neighbors in the jungle of Colombia, grabbing children and loved ones, ran to the church buildings for refuge—only to have that become their death trap.

Rosa spoke of her youngest daughter receiving a rifle blast through her home's door frame. At first she didn't realize she had been shot, but her pain increased and later at a hospital, after examination, they still could not find a bullet. Four years later, the bullet, having entered through her arm had been discovered to have traveled to her upper leg.

Was this possible? Could a bullet do that? I chose to believe Rosa. She described her daughter’s pain and the loss of her hearing after being so close to firing guns.

It was this man, the man they called el Aleman, the German, who had shot through the door and wounded her daughter that day. He engineered the ambush of the village church, and later said he had no idea all of those people were inside. He tried to blame the priest for gathering them there. Ultimately his barked orders and ruthlessness was the cause of her family’s flight from a village she called home. She saw her mother and son killed and escaped with her life and with her wounded daughter.

There Are Many Kinds of Villainy

This man was not a part of FARC, he was a paramilitary leader hired to clear the land of inhabitants, probably on the payroll of a large multi-national corporation intent on raping the land of any natural resources they could find.

Rosa arrived here, in Quibdo hoping to start again. She works in the kitchen of this cafe washing pots, making soup, frying fish for a meager existence. She wanted to once again recover her former livelihood as a café owner. For now, going back to her village was not in the cards. Life for the desplazados in Quibdo will never be the same. Their story a small footnote to the larger epic of the displaced persons in Colombia.

The dominant issue of my trip to Colombia has been displacement and its effect on society. The government of Colombia has passed laws that make payments of reparation available.

The Government's Money for Housing is Inadequate

Ms. Cordoba told me that the money simply is not enough to rent a safe dwelling comparable to her former home. She has never tried to get money from the government. For now she is marking time until she can save enough to go into business again for herself. Her goal, what gives her hope for the future is a common one for any parent, she wants a better life for her children.

I often wish, since I went on this trip, that I had a way to get in touch with those I met along this journey. Rosa's story touched me, her strength in the face of a tragedy and resoluteness to make her life better. Fortunately organizations like CRS, and our counterpart in Latin America, Caritas are there to give a hand up to those willing to make a new start. I feel humbled that I play a part of a global effort in the name of love.


© Copyright 2009 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved

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