Saturday, March 20, 2010

La Violencia (Sunday, March 14)

Depending on who you talk to, Colombia is still in a state of war. Here at the family finca, 8 hours south of Bogota and bordering some of the more dangerous departmentos of Colombia (basically, jungle + mountain = FARC + banditos) the memories are still pretty fresh.

Por ejemplo:

The graffiti in town. It mostly says stuff like, “En memoria de las familias de las victimas de La Violencia.” We see this a lot.

The stories. Eight years ago, guerrillas robbed a neighbor of Gustavo’s, killing three people. That was in 2002. Eight years ago, they also bombed the local power station in Alta Mira, knocking out electricity at Guasamilla for a week. And just five years ago, ladrones (perhaps with a political affiliation, perhaps just taking advantage of the chaos) robbed Guasamilla. They came at 5:30am, locking Gustavo, Patricia, and their employees into a room. They blockaded the door by tying a rope to the front columns of their house. They stole all of their valuables, including their wedding rings, and 24 cows. All in broad daylight. Nobody was hurt, thank god, but Gustavo and Patricia only escaped from the locked room when one of their employee’s wives came looking for him after dark.

The precaution. Patricia never wears jewelry anymore, and in fact the only tesoros she owns is what the ladrones left behind. When Gustavo, Gabe and I went to Garcon the other day, she gave me a spare set of keys to the truck – “llaves de emergencias.” What the emergency could be on a shopping trip for bull hormones and bread could be, I don’t want to know. Every possible door and window to the house has bolts or blockades, every single one of which is locked at night. Our bedroom has a lock with key from the inside, while our windows have iron grids on them. Every woman I’ve met has given me a lesson on how to carry my purse. You lock your door the minute you get in the car. You don’t hail a taxi, you call one so that the pick up is on record with the company – otherwise, as Diana says, “I mean, it could be anyone. It could be a serial killer.”

The Weapons. Gustavo has a ginormous rifle, which is about the size of Patricia. It’s for birds, and you know, bad guys.

Most of all, it’s about a state of mind. Though Colombians are verrrry touchy about their world reputation and mindful of their PR, day-to-day they still live under the shadow of La Violencia. And so for the next six weeks, so will we.