Dina Blanco received an invitation from her neighbor, Olivia, to attend a meeting of the 'the New Light of God' sect on January 13 in a remote community immersed in the Panamanian jungle. He said he should go "like it or not."
So Blanco, 24, attended the ceremony. She was accompanied by her 9-year-old daughter, who had epilepsy, her 15-year-old son and her father. It was the last time everyone would be together.
The sect had begun to practice its sessions in the village three months before, but it changed when one of its members had a terrifying vision, the Associated Press news agency reported. They had to exterminate nonbelievers, he told them, because they had been "chosen."
When they arrived, they were told not to open their eyes, to hold hands and pray; because they were before the physical presence of God .
“I felt something in my head and then I don't know what happened to me. I fell to my knees, ”said Blanco, a woman with black hair and short stature.
Authorities said cult members used bibles, batons and machetes to beat congregants. Blanco now has a scar on his back that goes down from his right shoulder to his waist and a blow that furrows his forehead.
"When I arrived, they kept telling me not to open my eyes," Blanco recalled. " I heard drums, an accordion, shouting, crying ... It was tied . "
Some of the congregants were forced to undress and walk on burning coals, according to authorities.
But the worst was yet to come. In the early hours of January 14, a cult member approached and told Blanco that his daughter Inés had died. His son and father managed to escape, but they were not so lucky.
"Field birds should get rid of their body," said the voice.
In fact, Ines, like Blanco's pregnant neighbor and five of her children, had been killed during the ritual, according to some accounts, beheaded, and their naked bodies were thrown into the hammocks and a mass grave recently excavated in the village cemetery .
Nine of the 10 preachers arrested last week have been charged with murder and kidnapping.
The bibles were still open and musical instruments scattered this weekend on the floor of the shed where the murders happened.
The indigenous leader Evangelisto Santo said that during the ceremony, "people danced and sang and nobody paid attention because we knew they were in the presence of God."
But for White, God was not among those present . "For me, it was hate that was there," he told the agency.
The community of El Terron is located in the jungle of the indigenous enclave of Ngabe Bugle, on the Caribbean coast of Panama, and is largely isolated from the outside world. Its 300 residents must walk hours along narrow, steep roads to reach boats that can transport them along a river to other villages that have electricity, telephones, health clinics and police presence.
In the city of Santiago, Blanco must still undergo scanners to rule out internal injuries; He has bruises on his abdomen, back and hands due to blows. But to her what hurts most is in her heart.
"She was a disabled girl," he said about Ines. "I spent a lot of time with her, I bought her pills to treat her illness that cost three dollars," a large amount for impoverished farmers in the most marginalized region of Panama. "Now I won't have it at home," Blanco said. "That is the biggest pain I have."
Blanco's story suggests that the 14 survivors were bandaged, bound, unconscious or unable to see most of the time. So the truth about what happened during the macabre ceremony could well be revealed only from the trial against nine villagers who have been accused of murdering their neighbors.