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Working in an alien land

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Yadira, Rosita and Edith live in Bojayá. Their stories are heavy with sufferance. They wish to have a piece of land of their own.

These three women live in La Loma, departement of Bojayá, Chocó. The three met there because the violence brought them to the same point. None of the three have ever owned land. Their husbands are the ones who have had the titles. However, they are working women and have been indispensable in the growth of their families.


They are part of the group of women of Aplameda (Association of plataneros of medio Atrato). We met at the vigil for peace organised in the river Pogue. It’s already dawn when we talk and sleep wants to win us over, but memories are more important. When one of them dozes out, the other awakens her. Yadira, a black woman, with a strong voice, leads the conversation. She was born in Bojayá. Rosita, short, smiling, very long hair, low tone of voice, was born in Riosucio, Chocó. Edith, thin, slow-spoken, a tender face, was born in Arboletes, Antioquia.

Yadira: "From a young age I started working on my parents' plot. Then I got married and the land was bought by my partner. There I planted bananas that are the basis of our food in Bojayá. We do vegetable garden. I work from seven in the morning until half past eleven on the plot. Then I get to do the housework. I have a small store to help us get a living. With what gives me the plot we make the assortment for the store, thus is how we are solving our economy. We were quite hit here by the violence and despite the frightening things we had to live on May 2 we still have hope. I asked my children what made us strong, God gave us that strength that sustained us. We were attacked by the paramilitaries. They came pulling people out and killing them. When they arrived, they produced chaos, they began to shoot. That is in the minds of people. The explosion of the cylinder in Bojayá felt as if it were in Loma, which is an hour away. We were all very scared. That day was desperate because our relatives were there and one asks himself a lot of questions: would they have fallen, who survived, what had happened.

The hope that I have at this moment is that this process would allow us to be able to get out from this nightmare. We do not want our children to go to some of the ranks. I argue that peace will not only come because the FARC will silence arms. Let each person understand that one does not have to attack the neighbor, the brother, we must live in solidarity.

Right now in Quibdó we are experiencing a wave of very heavy violence. That ugly slaughter has been ruffled. I have two children who are studying at university and are very scared. Quibdó was not like that before, it’s in a mess. I wonder: Will there be peace?"

Rosita: "I lived in Salaquí, Riosucio, Chocó. The land was my husband's. I have never had land in my name. In 2001 the paramilitaries entered and they ended up with an entire community, some of us managed to leave, we were more than a hundred families. We lost the pigs, the cattle, ducks, chickens, banana trees. We had to flee with nothing, just a few changes of clothes. They burned all our houses, because we were guerrillas or we help guerrillas, they said. We joined several families and began to walk along the trails, by the headwaters of the rivers. We could not go out and buy things at the farmhouses. The natives were the ones who helped us. We made a list of food like a hundred thousand pesos, we could not make more of it. They brought us food and we distributed it among all and thus we survived, walking through those mountains with them who knew them so well.

I arrived with my husband to Loma, but we split up, he went with another woman. He sold everything we had and he gave me nothing. At the moment I am alone. I have no children. I had one and he died. The other is studying, this year he will end. I'm working on an alien plot. I have chickens and bananas. But it's hard. I feel sick. The husband I had almost killed me, I stayed in bed. The people helped me, but I cannot lift heavy things. I cannot take a machete to spray, because I have a weak back.
Our desire, as an organization of women, is to make a shed. We want to work but at the moment we have not been able to find support".

Edith: "We moved from Puerto Rico, in Chigirodó, Antioquia. There, the paramilitaries came in and took it on the community. We fled with nothing, only the children who were still small, and some bags on the shoulder. We left everything else behind. We had corn, rice, bananas, cassava, cane, everything. I had my brood of chickens and pigs. The farm was in the name of my partner. We went to Arboletes. There two of mine children were killed. We went on working from farm to farm, until we came to Chocó. I have been in Bojayá with my partner for seven years. We worked on a farm and the boss told us, a few months ago, that the job was over. I worked in sheds peeling chickens and chopping fish, so I helped him with the expenses of the house. But my work ended too. We have three children. We left for the Loma. They leased us a parcel of three hectares where we have sheds, bananas, yucca and that is what we feed ourselves with. We live in the village and pay rent. I have my little hen brood I made with the savings from the previous job. Violence leaves one behind. We are fighting. My hope is that we can live in peace, in harmony. We have fought so hard, we are tired of suffering. When we were recently displaced, we got few small bananas, cooked them for the children and we had nothing to eat. There were days when we all went to bed without eating".

All three women are saddened recalling those painful moments. No one is sleepy anymore and the sky is starting to clear. None would like the cruel history of violence to be repeated. They also yearn to have a home of their own, with their land to cultivate. Owning a plot, without the fear that one day someone will force them to leave. Food is the most important thing for them.

As Yadira says: "When we have food we have peace of mind. If we produce, we have for our food and we will not be suffering". I ask the three of them what makes them happy at the moment. They hugs one another and tears run down the chicks. Edith: "My family makes me happy. Also the parrandas (parties). Spending time with my friends". Yadira: “Partying makes me happy, sharing things among us, getting together, laugh". Rosita: “What makes me happy is to serve the people who come to the house. The parties we do together. Working in the Association".