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To fly again: Alicia’s Story (Buenaventura)

To fly again: Alicia's Story (Buenaventura)


The next textual content is a translation of the private account “Volar de nuevo”, revealed in La luz que nos queda (Sisma Mujer, 2017). This can be a ebook with the private tales of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in several elements of Colombia.

My story speaks of violence, but in addition of household traditions and of black resistance – one thing we don’t hear rather a lot about.

Alicia was born in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca, on eight September 1971, as the one daughter of Carmelo and Amanda. She comes from an extended line of solely youngsters, which lead her to occupy an area of privileges and affection in her residence.

Alicia’s mother and father met once they have been fairly younger. Her mom, at simply 15 years previous, died after giving start to her. Her father went in one other course and determined to comply with his personal path with out Alicia. Her grandparents, in addition to her aunts, have been left in command of her care and affection that, being somewhat woman, she desperately wanted. She grew up with the help of her household, with a community of girls who protected and spoilt her continuously.

Illustrated by Mike Ramirez. Guide cowl of “La luz que nos queda” (Sisma Mujer, 2017)

Of her childhood she remembers that the times glided by alternating between cuddles and hugs, between her maternal and paternal household. Her grandmothers, who she began to name ‘mum’, tried to offer her the perfect when it comes to schooling, shelter, meals and recreation.

In her childhood there was no hitting nor violence, solely video games, laughs and care. For the ladies of her household, schooling was a elementary software of liberation crucial for a greater future. Of this Alicia remembers the books, the varsity and the tutor who would reinforce what she learnt in school. When she was 13, her ‘mum’, who was actually her grandmother, died, and she or he then came upon that her grandmother had not recognized how you can learn or write. Due to this her grandmother had determined to not repeat this similar mistake with the next era; she was decided to offer them an schooling, whatever the sacrifices that have been wanted to realize this.

Alicia grew up in a homely household setting. This made her joyful. In a time of single-family houses, she was shut together with her aunts and cousins. She doesn’t keep in mind a second of loneliness. Her nanny, tutor, aunts and grandmothers all the time accompanied her.

Hazard and hurt have been unimaginable for Alicia. Every step she took in life was accompanied holding palms together with her aunts and grandmothers. She didn’t know of struggling, rejection or discrimination. She knew that in her household there have been individuals with white pores and skin and others with darkish pores and skin like her, however this wasn’t one thing that denoted distinction however variety:

I by no means knew what racism was. No one advised me that in my home I used to be totally different, nor did they make me really feel prefer it, nor did I look within the mirror and see someone totally different from them.

Alicia had inherited the darkish complexion of her mom, whereas her household on her father’s aspect have been fair-skinned. However the variations of pores and skin color weren’t notable in a household surroundings formed by love and respect.

She had many toys: bicycles, rollerblades and a dolls home the place she might delve into any world of her creativeness and, together with her cousins, recreate the happiness of their childhood. She learnt to embroider because of the ladies of the home who knew that not solely knowledgeable profession was crucial, but in addition crafts. As in the event that they have been anticipating the longer term, the ladies within the household began to teach the youthful generations, the place Alicia occupied a privileged place, maybe as a result of they knew that sooner or later issues weren’t going to be just like the comfortable bubble that that they had skilled as youngsters.

As a toddler she travelled to different nations, she roamed different worlds guided by her grandmother, who was all the time by her aspect caring and defending her from any little factor that may trigger her hurt. She grew up with matriarchal ladies, who took the reigns of an unlimited household. They raised many nieces and nephews, who have been fortunate to be raised with the encouragement and powerful voices of those robust ladies and who have been altering historical past by way of pushing ahead schooling as an essential pillar of their household.

Her life was inside attain of Buenaventura with its complicated social, political and financial issues. Her grandmother and her aunts tried to keep away from these issues, with a purpose to give a cheerful and easy childhood to the woman that they liked a lot. The ups and downs of Buenaventura didn’t attain their united house and household, which didn’t expertise the violence and poverty of the encompassing space.

While she was educated and taken care of by her grandmother, Alicia’s father began one other household the place he had extra daughters, however for causes of safety, her household determined that she mustn’t get to know this household, nor get near her father.

Alicia had events and fortunately celebrated life. The one factor she couldn’t have fun was her commencement from her diploma in Enterprise Administration and Finance, as a result of her grandmother who took care of her, began to get unwell and her diabetes worsened. This was round November 1992, when Alicia was 22. They have been dwelling in Cali on the time, the place her grandmother had purchased a home in order that she might develop up fortunately and in need of nothing. Her enjoyment of this was short-lived when her ‘mum’ turned sick.

The conflict was close to, quickly it might knock on Alicia’s door and she or he would get to know that lovely however harmful Buenaventura, crammed with its troublesome issues. The magic and the colors of childhood began to be tainted with the gray of warfare and drug trafficking that lurked within the streets of Buenaventura.

The conflict reached Alicia’s household. It worn out a lot of the males in her household. The primary of them was her uncle, who was one of many few in her household that had determined to not research, working as a taxi driver in Buenaventura. He was an atheist, and this caught Alicia’s consideration who, uninterested in the gruelling plenty and all of the saints to which her grandmothers would pray, noticed in her uncle a definite and irreverent man.

The truth of violence and drug trafficking was not hidden from Alicia’s household. The boat Riviel, well-known in Buenaventura, was a picket boat belonging to Alicia’s household. Unlawful armed teams needed to make use of this boat for his or her drug trafficking actions. When the household denied them use, the boat was destroyed.

In the direction of Might 1993, on Mom’s Day, her uncle left to work within the taxi to earn cash for the household. A gaggle of paramilitaries approached him eager to make a journey like another passenger.

My uncle disappeared on Sunday, 7 Might, on Mom’s Day. He went to drive some passengers, and everybody noticed him going up. To “go up” is when somebody leaves Buenaventura within the path of Cali. It was 8pm, 9pm, 10pm and nothing. He was a household man, he had again issues and couldn’t spend too many hours within the taxi due to a backbone surgical procedure. My uncle disappeared for about three days.

They tortured and dismembered her uncle and delivered his unrecognisable stays in a plastic bag. Her aunt turned a widow and he left a daughter. The information indicated that he had been killed by the paramilitaries, in order that they went to report the case.

The lads of the household have been in danger: one other uncle, who had been in command of the Riviel boat, had needed to depart Buenaventura due to the threats from unlawful armed teams, as he had not allow them to use the boat for a drug trafficking route. And now the demise of her uncle gave a sign of the atrocities that have been beginning to threaten the household. The ladies, extra concerned with family chores, weren’t accustomed to the world that was shifting in town’s streets.

Ñata, as they used to name her, stayed alone in the home on the day of her uncle’s wake, till the remainder of the household arrived. Three males on motorbikes arrived on the wake and began to shoot. Every man went to guard a lady. That was the place they killed Pedro, husband of Alicia’s aunt Allba; Jonathan, son of her aunt Claudia; uncle Noe; Patricio, son of her aunt Rigoberta and her son Tomás. Alicia’s cousin was saved, because of his brother, who protected him and was then himself hit by a bullet.

Moments of terror and unhappiness arrived, the lads needed to depart the city due to threats. The ladies stayed to proceed taking the reins at residence. It was evident that these atrocious acts had not been a private matter because the newspapers claimed.

Her grandmother, the matriarch of the home, resulting from her unwell well being, stayed to help the ladies, giving them power and encouragement, telling them that this was the second to maneuver ahead, to not permit defeat. Nevertheless, in July 1993, she suffered a coronary heart assault and died.

For Alicia the world took a flip which left her disorientated and ungrounded. When she was born she had misplaced her organic mom; at 13 she misplaced her second mom and now, at 22, she had misplaced her third mom, who had taken care of, protected and beloved her. She was her rock, she had given her all she wanted to be glad and to not endure, however now, with out her, life was exhausting.

The problem began: to face every day life with out her mom, who was Alicia’s fixed, not just for her, however for the entire household. She began to carve out her presence, utilizing what she had learnt, following within the lengthy line of robust and highly effective ladies. Together with her skilled papers and the union of her household she continued on filled with braveness:

Typically we have now to maneuver away from the nest the place we really feel snug to have the ability to fly once more.

Alicia arrived in Cali with the hope of a greater future. Her Aunt Claudia continued to look after her and be her help. The household ties continued to hold and shelter her for these days when life was exhausting. Braveness and a want to maneuver ahead have been her new horizons.

Her grandfather, who was like a father, was a carpenter and he used to offer the cash he earned to his spouse in order that she might organise the funds. She had been the one who had organised all issues of the house. So, after her demise, he entered a second of disaster when he didn’t need to proceed dwelling. His zest for all times started to deteriorate. For Alicia these have been moments of uncertainty, she needed to take the reins of the family, of which she had been left in cost. She needed to study to prepare dinner, clear and handle the household’s funds.

The big home the place she handed her childhood years appeared empty with out her mom. So, Alicia and her grandfather determined to lease a room, the place they lived for 3 months to maintain him firm in his unhappiness and loneliness. Her grandfather, who smoked quite a bit, began to have hassle together with his lungs. He divided the inheritance of his three youngsters and, in fact, Alicia, who had grow to be one other daughter. With this cash, every youngster purchased a home and created their houses. Alicia determined to not have youngsters however took care of her nieces and nephews.

Every one acquired one thing from the inheritance of the big home, however Alicia solely needed to maintain the household photograph albums. Wanting over them comforted her and allowed her to journey to that pleased childhood.

Her grandmother’s demise was adopted by 4 years of mourning, throughout which the household visited the cemetery collectively. Alicia began to work in a faculty. Her grandfather misplaced his Colpuertos pension as a result of the corporate went bankrupt and didn’t pay it to him. By this stage Alicia began to look after Aunt Claudia, who regardless of having her husband and youngsters, was not being taken care of by them as they weren’t taking note of her well-being. Jonhatan, the oldest son, used to offer for her, however he was one of many victims of the paramilitaries – that they had killed him.

The household started to develop aside, some went to Pereira. The struggle was breaking apart the household ties that had united them earlier than. So many losses of family members meant that every half household adopted its personal path.

The threats wouldn’t stop, our authorities weren’t listening to us. Now that my ‘mum’ had died, we have been disorientated, my ‘dad’ didn’t need to reside, particularly after he had misplaced two brothers, a nephew, a grandson, a son-in-law and his spouse.

Alicia began to take the reins at residence, to care for her nieces and nephews, to proceed with the legacy that had prioritised schooling. It wasn’t straightforward to imagine the position of her adoptive mom however, little by little, she began to take care of her nieces and nephews in a loving approach.

She was dismissed from the varsity the place she labored in Buenaventura, as a result of she was perceived as a goal for the paramilitaries and subsequently a menace to the varsity. So, she returned to Cali. It was a reawakening and a chance to imagine the every day challenges. There she labored as an administrator of an organization. The issues she had learnt from her household began to assist her to maneuver ahead. She was capable of face troublesome moments and with the power of this Buenaventura nature that ran in her blood, beneath no circumstance did she relent.

In these troublesome moments she knew that her ‘mum’ had given her the required instruments in order that she might defend herself on her personal:

She had manufactured from me a helpful lady in society and I needed to proceed forward (…) Till in the present day I’ve continued to look after my Aunt’s residence, I raised my nieces and educated them. I used to be capable of make a house and I believed I wouldn’t be capable of do that. I used to be capable of assume the duty for the household that I’ve right now.

The ladies of her household continued with the duty of strengthening their youngsters and to construct up the union that that they had learnt a lot about. Schooling was their preventing flag, they knew that this was the important thing device to get forward, this was crucial legacy for the subsequent generations.

So, the violence didn’t defeat them, they usually continued forward, they solely appeared again to recollect the teachings of a previous that had been crammed with happiness.

Violence was one of many methods of mobilising ourselves as a result of, if it had not been like that, I consider that we might nonetheless be in the identical vicious cycle. Everyone began to seek for new horizons, to search for alternatives.

Alicia started to share her inheritance between her father and aunt, as a result of her father had not invested the cash properly and had began to ask for loans from unlawful armed teams, these teams who threatened you for those who didn’t pay the totality of the debt. Her aunt didn’t know learn how to handle funds,so Alicia had to assist her present for her youngsters.

They tried to report these acts, which once more have been associated to the paramilitaries. Nevertheless, it was unattainable, as a result of the cash that was lent to locals got here from drug revenues and for the unlawful armed teams a police investigation created a excessive danger of being despatched to jail. Subsequently, they threatened the judges who have been concerned and that was the top of the report.

Alicia’s household lived in the direction of the aspect of the island of Buenaventura, surrounded by water and close to the fishing port. The port was recognized to be the place the unlawful armed teams operated. Quite a few incidents of sexual abuse began to happen within the zone.

Up the street from the place we lived they sexually assaulted a woman who I keep in mind was referred to as Marisela, some males from an unlawful armed group raped her. She was a younger woman, 17 years previous, she was underage. Truthfully what I assumed in that second, I didn’t say this to my aunt, however I assumed that she had introduced it upon herself, she was a younger woman who wore brief shorts. Later, after I lived it, I needed to take again my phrases.

The latent menace pressured Alicia to go away her beloved Buenaventura, she needed to take her Aunt Claudia, the one member of the family who had stayed there, to proceed caring for her, however love for her hometown and the will to proceed preserving the house she had constructed collectively together with her husband made her aunt keep in Buenaventura. Alicia left for Cali, looking for a brand new life, removed from the fear, anguish and dying.

She liked her Aunt Claudia, she was like all of the older ladies in her household house, shut, heat and all the time had an encouraging and caring phrase to say. For this reason Alicia offered for her care, and she or he wouldn’t cease, even when she went to stay in Cali.

Alicia’s household had taught her that racism didn’t exist and that the color of your pores and skin wasn’t essential, everybody ought to love and respect one another.

I by no means knew I used to be totally different, I got here to know racism later. I realised that as a result of in Valle [del Cauca] there are extra Afro-Colombians than anything, so I by no means felt totally different, I had by no means seen distinction, I had by no means felt it. Later, I needed to study to stay with it, to learnt how you can overcome this and to insist that the color of my pores and skin didn’t matter. I had many extra issues to offer in life.

She additionally needed to confront paramilitary teams with this power and braveness. Considered one of her nephews, the son of Aunt Claudia, needed to enter an unlawful armed group as a result of he knew with them he would earn some huge cash and would be capable of purchase the newest manufacturers. Regardless of his household providing different alternatives like research and work, with out luxuries or comforts, the younger nephew determined that he needed to hitch the unlawful armed teams and have become concerned within the actions of the armed teams and their ‘chop houses’.

Alicia, with the willpower inherited from an extended line of ahead considering ladies, managed to take her nephew out of Buenaventura and provides him a greater life:

I had the final phrase, I advised him, properly, from right here on you’re going in the direction of a lifetime of crime, hasn’t there been sufficient crime and violence already.

There weren’t any extra individuals in her household which the paramilitaries might comply with, all her family members had already been displaced due to the struggle. Solely Aunt Claudia remained, who she visited on the weekends. A type of weekends, the warfare personally touched Alicia’s physique. The lads of the armed battle impressed her pores and skin with marks of violence and abuse.

They surrounded me in the future in my Aunt’s home in Buenaventura. They stated to me ‘good afternoon’, I keep in mind that I used to be sitting in the lounge once I noticed the blokes, however I couldn’t run as a result of I used to be on the second flooring, in order that they ambushed me.

While these atrocities occurred, her Aunt Claudia couldn’t do something. On the time the menace had appeared dormant and the fear of a gun to her head made Claudia surprised and unable to maneuver whereas Alicia was being abused. They have been three days of ache, three days disadvantaged of her liberty in her Aunt’s home, enclosed in a room and submitted to sexual abuse by the paramilitaries.

It was 1 October 2009 once they retained her and dedicated such an onslaught of abuse. The primary two days she was raped by a person, the chief commander of the zone’s paramilitary group. For 2 nights and three days she was retained in her aunt’s home, and on the third night time she determined to flee, regardless of the ache she felt in her physique. Her aunt ultimately introduced her meals and her uncle didn’t discover out what had occurred. The paramilitary commander had left considered one of his males, somebody from the identical city (Buenaventura), on the door watching Alicia.

Nobody within the household knew what had occurred. Alicia left her aunt’s home feeling livid, unhappy and helpless, not just for the ache of the abuse she remembered, but in addition for her aunt, who she felt hadn’t taken care of her and didn’t look out for her.

I advised her, you knew what they have been going to do to me, besides, you simply stayed quiet.

After this, Alicia determined that the justice system ought to cope with her case.

I reported it. I misplaced my cell phone, a Movistar, as a result of he informed me ‘If you ever say my name I will kill you and I will kill your aunt’. He put a gun to my head and stated, ‘Be quiet, or I’ll kill you’, and I wasn’t capable of say ‘kill me’; I used to be paralyzed. I first went to Cali to a cousin of mine, however I didn’t inform her something. Even so, she requested me what occurred. These males began to name me and threaten me.

Alicia didn’t inform anybody in her household to guard them. To her aunt she had the chance to say that she hadn’t taken care of her, that she knew what was coming, however didn’t warn her. The household nonetheless have no idea what occurred and nonetheless marvel concerning the distance between Alicia and her Aunt Claudia.

This incident of the conflict drew aside one other bond within the household. It is going to nonetheless take time to heal these wounds. Nevertheless, Alicia deep down liked her aunt, however she wanted to speak and begin to perceive what had occurred to have the ability to heal.

I used to be in Buenaventura in June 2016 as a result of I had id safety from the Human Rights Ombudsman. I went with them to Buenaventura, taking the required precautions. I didn’t go to her home, nor inform her that I used to be in Buenaventura.

Alicia has not been capable of return for good to her beloved metropolis, the place her soul belonged, she has solely returned as soon as, with the safety of the Human Rights Ombudsman. After what occurred she went to Pereira to stick with a cousin, however she continued to reside in worry due to the threats she acquired on her cell phone. So, she fled in the direction of Cartagena, however the price of dwelling there was excessive.

A day of sobbing and hopelessness lead her to take a bus that was going in the direction of Sincelejo, the place she lives now. The primary day she arrived Don Donaldo Mendoza, a person from her hometown, lent her a hand in solidarity after seeing her crying inconsolably within the park. He took her to a feminine neighbour of his, who had been displaced due to violence.

The solidarity of the city in the direction of the victims of the battle, allowed this lady from San Onofre, who had been forcibly displaced to Sincelejo, to be acquired into the group. They understood what she had been by means of and the way robust it had been to go away her roots and are available to an unknown place.

The custom of girls in her household had left Alicia with expertise like embroidering and doing errands. This helped her transfer on together with her life and paid for her mattress and board on the Señora Norma guesthouse. She remembered the clever phrases of her mom, reminding her that although a career is necessary, crafts can save your life. This had proved true for Alicia.

Alicia selected to not get in contact together with her household once more and left her cell phone on the Prosecutor’s workplace, as a result of the threatening calls continued and the authorities wanted to hint the place they have been coming from, and which unlawful armed group was behind the threats.

I spent fairly a while and not using a telephone, the Prosecutor’s workplace took it from me, not solely the gadget however my quantity as properly. I attempted to get it again, however Movistar informed me that I wouldn’t be capable of as a result of the one that attacked me wasn’t solely a drug trafficker, but in addition a paramilitary chief. I acquired safety measures as a result of I gave the Prosecutor his id they usually verified not solely my abuse, but in addition that of varied different ladies.

Firstly it was troublesome to explain the incident, nonetheless, Alicia took reassurance in having her displacement acknowledged by the Prosecutor’s workplace. On the Ombudsman’s workplace, with the psychologist Anny Ojeda, Alicia recounted for the primary time, between tears, what had occurred. They informed her that it was mandatory to inform all of the information in order that the report might transfer ahead, and that her telephone quantity would keep within the chain of custody while they did the investigation.

Six months in, Señor Donaldo received her work as an assistant in Argelia and, with the dignity that characterises Alicia, she began to develop into unbiased and pay her money owed. She walked to work to avoid wasting pennies to repay those that had lent her a hand.

Her household had given her an excellent life, however her upbringing meant she knew she needed to move by way of moments of shortage. The truth is, they provided her the chance to go away the nation for cover, however she couldn’t stand the thought of being so removed from her household and her residence nation. Due to this she determined to proceed dwelling in Colombia.

Alicia is aware of that her aggressor is in jail and that he was a commander of the very best ranks in her area’s paramilitary group.

He’s imprisoned, they convicted him. I do know that the group he commanded is in Buenaventura and that they caught him there. It’s due to this that I, and the opposite ladies who reported him, have been given witness safety from the Ombudsman (…) He’s the one that began the notorious ‘chop houses’, he’s a cruel, merciless and inhumane individual. It wasn’t simply him both, his entire household have been a part of the clan.

These days, in Sincelejo, Alicia remembers the odor of the ocean and the chonta palms of the Buenaventura that she loves with all her soul. She has began constructing hyperlinks together with her household once more, her household who’re her pillar and who she loves and cares for, as she was taught to by the ladies of home.

In my household there have been all kinds of victimising incidents. What’s extra, I feel that in Colombia to be a lady and to be black implies double violation. A lot of what occurs to us stays in silence. It is very important acquire the tales of Afro-Colombian ladies, as a result of we have now to share our reminiscences. There’s a lot to inform and far to study concerning the capability we’ve needed to be in a position resist and help each other via our households.

Alicia, an Afro-Colombian lady, robust and easy, has began to smile once more every time Buenaventura returns to her coronary heart. Remembering each nook of her house city makes her pleased.

Once I returned to Buenaventura, I used to be completely satisfied, I started to smile once more, I roamed by means of each block and so many reminiscences of my childhood got here again, the locations, the faculties, the nook outlets. There are my roots, that’s my place.

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