Commander Isabella Sanroque
Central theme: Recovering the historical memory of the armed movement
The internal armed conflict in Colombia, the largest in the Western hemisphere, has affected several populations for over half a century, during which clashes between insurgent groups, the Colombian State, drug trafficking and paramilitarism have generated levels of worrying victimization and stories needing to be clarified. The claims of a different Colombia began with the petitions of peasant families who came from Sumapaz and the east of Tolima looking for a dignified life from the middle of the XX century. A group of 48 peasants in 1964 decided to organize themselves into peasant self-defense groups. At that time, President Guillermo León Valencia bombed Marquetalia, a town where communities and the group of insurgents were living, forcing these groups to move to the mountain and to begin with the structuring of a guerrilla war. Several were the attempts to reach peace, however all these attempts failed. This history of the twentieth century deserves special treatment in order to understand the nuances that made possible the configuration of the dynamics of violence in the country. It is essential to begin to hear the unofficial stories that have not been told by the very dynamics of the war.
Ecicp: According to your vision, how could the historical memory of the FARC insurgency be told?
IS: The first thing I would have to say about the subject of historical memory is that for us of course it is fundamental that all the tradition and all the history that we carry as an organization is preserved, because we also consider that it is unthinkable to tell the history of Colombia in the 20th century without the participation of what is the FARC; but to tell the true story, not the story that has so far been so distorted. Then that historical memory we consider that is the starting point to recover all those elements that were the cause of the conflict in Colombia. Beginning with the implementation I consider that in the communication strategy there must be a series of archives accessible to the public. We are already working on this matter in fact, to recreate and dynamize a series of elements that can be seen by society, for example biographies and audiovisual archives. We have a lot of material that is not known, all that initially will be thought for a web page, we already have one in social networks, but we will have something specific where the whole subject of our memory is taken, that will be very important because in the current reality researching people use the net. We also consider that in education there must be specific chairs where real history is told, that will also be one of the struggles that we are going to have. We have the proposal of the installation of some museums in the regions and in the territories, to install there some elements that have an important meaning for us, coming from the war, nontraditional things. We also consider that some cemeteries or monuments have to be promoted, it is the memory of a number of people who died giving their lives for a cause, for their country, and who deserve to be remembered. Within our political element we aspire to have a number of instances to which we can turn to precisely claim the memory of all those people who have died.
Ecicp: In that sense, extending the previous answer, what would be the most representative moments in the history of this guerrilla and of your own history in the ranks of the FARC?
IS: Well, for us as an organized collective, the origin of the FARC in Marquetalia is very symbolic. I believe that history and what really is the peasant tradition that our organization has, when we were forced to go to the mountains to take up arms to defend ourselves, is the resistance that we want to tell. Also a number of people who were very important in the development of this process in Colombia, among those clearly it would be impossible not to mention Comrade Manuel, Comrade Jacobo, Alfonso and Mariana Paez. There are comrades who have to make a reconstruction of their lives, their histories, their trajectories, their passage through the revolution in Colombia. In a personal way, I believe that the intensity of the war involved in the Patriot Plan and Plan Colombia is a story to be told, not only in quantitative terms of how many casualties we or they suffered. There are a number of chronicles within the guerrilla that are part of what was the terrible confrontation in the middle of the bombs, in the midst of harassment, in the midst of the operatives; The bravery that the guerrilla has in front of all those military operations, I believe that that has to be told with much dignity and with the value they deserve.
Ecicp: With respect to those places that you have known or where you have been in, such as Marquetalia, what other places do you suggest as places of memory?
IS: In fact, I have had a place in mind. I proposed it and reiterated my proposal and I think it will be accepted at some point: the area of the front “Fighters of Yarí", which is between La Macarena and San Vicente del Caguán, should be considered as a place of memory. There are a series of sites that were inhabited at the time of the clearance by Comrade Manuel and Jorge. Among these, there is a house that they call "Comrade Manuel" and it is in a place that is "The Ye of Los Negritos". It is a house that has been sacked for the search of guacas and that has been the target of a number of attacks by the Army. However, it is still there, it is not in ruins, it has been preserved anyway; I think that house deserves to be rebuilt and there need to be put some elements that can tell a little how thing happened here.
Ecicp: What do you consider the contribution of women to the current historical process? What is the historical legacy left by the role of women in the historical memory of the FARC?
IS: Women have been fundamental, since its origins in the FARC there have been women, to a lesser extent at that time, but little by little their presence has been rising to the point that we are now 40%. We are in all places of responsibilities; not in the secretariat, but in the Central High Command. Also because we do not use quotas but we work according to other criteria, more looking at the projection and the performance, this does not mean that there are not able women. Returning to the theme of historical memory, I consider that there are a number of women who, from the roles that have been playing in the context of war and politics within the organization, have made grandiose contributions that deserve recognition. Women in all roles, fighters, brave women who have been shoulder to shoulder, indeed we, the women, what we have is gain in dignity,we face no discrimination here. I consider that we are supremely advanced in our policy on treatment of women, we will in practice have to overcome many things. In that order of ideas, the history of the FARC and its memory can contribute to the reality of women in the organization, that truth that is contrary to that they have given in the media for many years. At the current juncture, this peace process is very important because it is undoubtedly the reflection of our participation, the demonstration that we are not only cooking and washing the clothes of the commanders. In the peace process a number of women became visible, we made ourselves visible. It was the perfect scenario to say: see, it is that women are in everything, plenipotentiaries, in communications, in the relationship and in the gender subcommittee. It is very important and our history has to stress this moment a lot.
Ecicp: Would you consider it important to claim all this historical memory through the establishment of a museum, a gallery or something like that? If you decided to make a museum of the FARC, what would you like to see there?
IS: Going back to the previous question, I think that the issue of women in the FARC has to be one of the things that we have to make sure we tell: we have to tell about our participation, because future generations have to know that these achievements are the product of the Colombian people. But in that struggle, in this 52 years long struggle many women have been killed and we have been here contributing equal to equal. So the truth has to be known by future generations, we cannot be told we didn’t make the revolution because we have always been here.
Ecicp: On a personal level, what would you consider to be your contribution to the reconstruction of historical memory once the agreements are signed?
IS: I am very interested in the subject, personally I have a friend who is very interested in working, I think with her we will design some plan to work in that direction. She is a graduate in social sciences, her name is Victoria, she is very interested in the subject and I believe that I will accompany that process. She has a little more specialization, and in fact wants to profile herself to do some master or some future specialization on the subject; then, yes we must help, we must investigate. And also to build all that memory, there are many things to tell and you cannot stay silence, of course not.
Ecicp: Now to finish: how do you see yourself once you rejoin civilian life, what would your expectations be?
IS: Reincorporation is such an uncertain thing, because on a personal level, I always see myself as in meetings, contributing to the new movement. I see myself doing politics, talking to people, helping to promote the development in the regions because that I have been doing for some time. But I believe that as a project of life, linked to this group. Other than that I imagine studying.
Ecicp: What would you like to study?
IS: I have a few semesters in social sciences, I think I'm going to finish that career and then study ecology, to do a master degree, but I do not have that as clear yet. What I do know is that I have to study, study and prepare because there are many challenges ahead of us and many things to do and we have to be ready for this. In addition to that, I want to reunite with my relatives. In the near future, I do not see myself married, perhaps in some relationship.
Ecicp: Thank you very much. For us as Ecicp it is very important to know all these points of view, it seems key and fundamental to know the history from those who have lived it.
IS: Ah! ... you made me remember the idea that the communities have in this place, here where we are. The idea is to become an ecotourism trail because here is also where memory lies. It seems to me that it is very symbolic because here the war raged, there was paramilitarism here, the guerrilla was here, it was heavy. In addition, because war in this place had several important moments and, above all, it saw the X Conference.
Ecicp: Sure, it's symbolic for peace. Again, thank you very much.
By: Lucas Carvajal, member of the Peace Delegation of the FARC-EP
Last April 15 was the 160th anniversary of the birth of a marvelous character, Avelino Rosas, who should be a symbol of national pride in Colombia.