Raising a family is arguably one of the greatest challenges of life. Regardless of nationality or locality, keeping each member of a family fed, clothed and safe is an impressive undertaking. Each day is a push to make ends meet. Every passing year is a study in survival. Looking at the breakdown of a vast number of family structures, Wendell Berry has commented that, “[...] like a community, a family doesn’t stay together just out of sentiment.” No matter whether a person comes from North America, South America or anywhere else on the map, forces everywhere pull and tear at families.
Yet, we love our families and so we push back. We work, day in and day out, to provide food, home, education and safety for one another. No two families look the same but regardless of these differences, we defend our family to the best of our ability.
Like any other family, Abelardo Joya and Olga Patricia Orozco Suarez wake each morning to face this challenge. They care for an energetic brood of five: Erica, Yuris, Dayana, Johan and tiny Miguel. The couple has fought this daily battle for the past thirteen years. Abelardo has worked his whole life so that he might own a farm in the Colombian countryside; they call their home La Floresta.
Daily life in La Floresta is trying. Planting, harvesting and maintaining the farm contribute to the general energy of hustle and bustle. Yet, the family has exactly what they need. The children have space to roam and clean water to drink. Food and firewood are always available. Olga recognizes the essential peacefulness of their home, the happy rhythms of a family at work and play. Abelardo hauls and chops, plants and cares for La Floresta but never lacks time to run around with his children, reveling in their playful spirit.
Sadly, this joyful farm life was nearly lost to the Joya family. One morning, a few years ago, a small plane flew over La Floresta. This plane was dropping herbicides intended to kill the illegal coca crops grown by various farms in the region. Without a care, the plane dropped these potent chemicals on the Joyas‘ farm. In a moment, Abelardo’s life work was ruined, his crops decimated. The Joyas could not fight this significant financial blow and were forced to abandon their home to move into a barrio on the outskirts of Barrancabermeja. Abelardo and Olga desperately grasped for any way to keep their family afloat. It seemed that the forces of displacement might win.
It was as this point that the Give Us Names crew met the Joyas. Upon hearing their story, we realized that what had happened to this family was an injustice which we could do something about. Recognizing that the United States played a major role in funding the aerial fumigations that displaced the Joyas, we knew that it would be our job, if at all possible, to return the Joyas to their home. In January of this year, we walked home with Abelardo, Olga and their little ones. We were there to eat, play and celebrate with the Joyas. We felt their elation and peace upon once again calling La Floresta home.
Keeping a family together is difficult enough without the additional threat of displacement. We all wake in the morning and hope that we will be able to make it through the day, caring for the ones we love. Imagine trying to do this each day with the knowledge that at any given moment, a small plane might fly overhead and ruin everything.
Thankfully, most of us do not have to deal with this added threat. We have the security and means to care for our families. We hope that you will join consider joining with Give Us Names in providing families like the Joyas with an equal opportunity to fight for their own. “A family doesn’t stay together out of sentiment,” so join the resistance.