Saturday, December 19, 2009 at 11:07PM
All of our senses are heightened as we are guided by local farmers through the blazing heat through cow pastures and farm land. For as far we can see, every ranch, every farm is controlled not by the farmers who tend it, but by the paramilitaries who decalared it to be so, and enforce their will with guns. These Colombian farmers are happy that we are here, happy that someone is listening. It is the first time any foreigners have come to the area, and the concern of our six armed police escorts is visible.
We visited with a family in their home, whose story is not unlike many others. One day paramilitary members arrived at their house with guns and told them they had a choice: give the land over and farm it as we say, give the land over and leave, or die and have the land taken. Some 20 families in this area faced the later. The family we were with chose to stay. Now they live a marginalized existence, allowed to keep only the smallest portion of proceeds from their labor. So goes displacement, and so goes the difficult fight against it.
On the long, cramped, 11-hour ride back to Medellín, we stop along the way at those plastic shacks that we have passed before. The displaced families there are also glad to receive us, glad to have someone listen. Among them is Fabian Gonzales, his wife, and two young children. He experienced displacement of a different kind. A kind that I've written about on this blog before. His crops were fumigated, leaving his family with no means to earn a living. For two months now, his family has been living in this shack on the side of a busy road as they hope and wait for some assistance from the government.
In this cold, damp climate so different from the one that they knew, they are getting sick. His wife coughs constantly. To think that it is my tax dollars causing such pain to a family that has done no harm to my country makes me sick to my stomach. Something has to change.
It sounds simple: change. But it's not simple, it's idealistic. And it is with idealism that we have to face the myriad of problems surrounding displacement. It can end. It has to end. And we will help to end it.