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When the birds did not sing: stories of the armed conflict in Colombia


The Truth Commission toured the country to listen to those who directly experienced the war. Their testimonies speak of exile, the cruelty of the FARC, kidnappings, the horror of State crimes, the Army, paramilitary violence

An image of the activity for the recognition of the victims of extrajudicial executions in Colombia, Cali, on October 5, 2021. Truth Commission

"If we victims had remained silent, surely we would not be talking about peace."

The final report of the Truth Commission would not have been possible without the voice of the victims who have directly suffered the conflict in Colombia.

“The problem is not that people don't have a voice;

the problem, rather, is that this society has not learned to listen in depth”, says the introduction to

The Testimonial Volume

, more than 500 pages of stories told in the first person.

“'When the birds didn't sing' takes us back to a past that is only understandable when compared to a present in which the birds already sang, but there was another time, another time when they didn't.

Then there was a moment of silence, a 'sound void' after a bombing, an explosion or a scream”, they explain in the report.

The phrase "When the birds did not sing" was presented by José, in Sucre, and is the story of pain, of absences, of the scars of war.

But also of life and the possibility of a different future.

The Truth Commission was, above all, a space designed to listen to those who directly experienced the armed conflict and its main method was precisely that: listening.

The final report is the voice of thousands of Colombians.

The testimonial volume

is divided into three texts:

The Book of Anticipations


The Book of Devastations and Life

, and

The Book of the Future


Here you can read them.

The stories are published without editing and what may seem like a writing error "is an editorial decision in the commitment to respect orality, in its diversity and linguistic richness, of the people who gave their testimony," says the Truth Commission .

The voices of mothers, children, widows, wives, soldiers and guerrillas appear in these pages, which recount the exile, the cruelty of the FARC, the kidnappings, the horror of the crimes of the State, the Army, the paramilitary violence, of the young people recruited, of the moment someone decides to arm himself.

Silence also appears.

“There are unspeakable issues, that are impossible to name or that fall short in their enunciation.

This has to do with the integrity of the person and with his intimate pain.

Perhaps silence is his way of witnessing.”

That did not let one sleep

It started like this there, everything was calm, everything was calm.

We lived in harmony, we lived happily in our town.

Until one day when the guerrillas arrived, who told us: “The people began to speak;

you look at a lot of Army out there, there is an Army”.

At night they attacked the gates.

That one had to go out to a meeting, that it was the guerrilla.

That would be around 88. One of them has to come out of each house, for good or whatever.

One is very afraid to go out.

The guerrilla said that they were going to be around, that all of them were going to be there.

That those who stole things, rather, that they were made up or were made up.

But the fear was also with the Army.

Every now and then the Army came to the town and asked if we had seen the guerrilla around here, and one had to say no because if he said yes, that was dangerous, they would kill him.

And the Army was angry.

“Not that we didn't know that they have gone out to meetings.

Perhaps killing about two, perhaps that way they warn.

They said “how can one believe that you were not going to watch guerrillas”.

It is better not to talk at all with either the guerrillas or the Army.

That anxiety, that anxiety.

My husband had a cart.

At night the guerrillas came and told him "he has to make a trip for us."

And that was obligatory, obligatory!

That embarrassed us, embarrassed us.

One day my husband got angry, he said no, that he was not going to stop fucking mother.

That if it was his, that they kill him.

I was filled with fear.

I had to accompany him because he gave me something to go alone.

Suddenly something happened to him there.

As my children entered school, they began to play with the other children, who were guerrillas.

With the machine gun stick, ta, ta, ta, ta!

Groups were formed: some the Army and others the guerrillas, and they lay down playing like this.

It was games.

From game to game they end up liking it.

That's why we thought we had to leave the town because when they grew up you didn't know, what if they didn't study, for joining the armed groups?

One does not remember the name of the commanders because one time one went, another time another, another time another.

It was better not to know.

"The less you know, the longer you live," my husband used to say.

I opted for that, at least.

Better not know.

That's how it was there.

We lived where people pass up and down.

And every time he heard footsteps that was a palpitation, that was an anguish.

Take the lead

It had been three years since I had built my ranch there.

We farmed the land, we had plenty of chickens and cattle.

I lived with my husband and my two-year-old daughter.

The least expected day we realized that there were some clashes, and the hardest thing is that it was between themselves.

They were supposed to be together, FARC and ELN.

In each hill a group was made.

We in the center.

That passed the days.

The roads were mined, no one could get out.

Food was scarce because we could no longer go out to cut a banana or a yucca.

The girl ran out of diapers and one as a woman did not have sanitary pads.

The State found out and sent the Army and that made things more complicated.

The Army began to bomb from the air.

That was very hard, very difficult.

One thing is to tell and another thing is to live it.

We had cattle up there on the hill.

When we realized it was that they had passed, that they had left.

They jumped the fences and we never saw them again.

We did not know how far they went.

My fear was that they would hit the house, that they would hit us.

I took the sheet off the bed and placed it on a stick, as if I wanted to show them that we were not guilty of anything.

One night they passed by.

I told them to please give me a minute to talk to him.

I told the commander of I don't know which guerrilla to please, that we had nothing to do with the war, that they please clear the road so we could get out.

They gave us one day to leave.

They told us “from tomorrow at three in the morning, you can go out.

We are going to demine one day and if it is not enough for them, then what a pity ».

I chose the most necessary.

I got up early to make a little breakfast for the girl, to give her on the way.

We came, and with the flashlight we could see the holes where there were mines.

"What if they haven't removed all of them?"

And well, we had to climb some hills.

And on the edge of the road there were little flags, there were signs.

He used to say “minefield, don't step on it”: that's where we weren't going to step.

I went there with my daughter, my husband and my brother.

And some workers, but they went further back.

The idea was that no one wanted to come out first, because they said that the first were the ones who were going to die.

Because I don't think they have removed all those mines, do they?

With God's blessing, we decided to take the lead.

There were some horses on the road.

I told my husband "let's bring them forward so they can activate."

On the way, a puppy hit me.

A dog of those labradors.

He stuck to me, he was happy with us.

He was going forward, forward.

I sat down, I got to rest and he went for a walk there.

And he came over, he sat there next to me, and he was screaming and screaming.

He was licking me, like he was inviting me to follow him.

But I never understood him.

I always had in mind that I couldn't sit on a mine.

One had to rest standing up, you couldn't lie down.

And that little dog, when he looked at me I got up... I mean, I got up, I carried my girl.

That little dog started running and when we felt it was that he exploded over there.

The puppy was warning me that there was a mine and I did not understand him.

That made my soul ache.

My soul, my heart ached.

I mean, what if I had understood the little dog?

And if he had understood him, what could he do?

As if he was warning me to go see what was there.

He got tired, he yelled at me, he scratched me with his hand.

To get there faster, I always went down a shortcut path they say;

and there was the bomb.

When we got there there wasn't even a dog, just dust.

And that's it, the puppy didn't follow us anymore.


I am a conscientious objector.

My story tells how militarization instrumentalizes children and adolescents.

From my story you can show the double standard of Colombian society, which validates militaristic values.

From my experience, the existence of military-oriented schools allows thirteen and eighteen-year-old boys, girls and adolescents to learn the pedagogies of militarization and war under the banner of discipline, order and military values ​​that perpetuate stereotype that the boy becomes a man when he goes through the Army.

Unfortunately, this situation is tolerated because it is carried out within the institutional framework.

However, if this practice is carried out by non-institutional agents, it is persecuted.

I want to remember a news story that went viral in the month of October of last year, in relation to a Manizales battalion that performed military chants that incited violence against women.

This kind of chants in the educational institution where I attended high school, during the time I did my military training, were totally tolerated by the officials of the educational institution during the years 2008 and 2011.

Doña Constance

My son went to the mountain and I didn't look at him anymore.

This is where my son's life ended.

Acknowledgment of responsibility for extrajudicial executions in Bogotá and SoachaTruth Commission

the mother of the dead

It is much that a body advances while it floats.

It is that there are always 24 hours that you need to float, to start floating.

Sometimes I would go with my husband in the canoe and he would tell me: "A body is floating, you can see a leg."

"Come closer," I told him.

"Pull me in or give him a hand."

“Yoooo? And why? Me with what?

Look, no, no, no."

And then I told him: "Go turning around and I'll give you a hand."

Even if you don't wear gloves or anything, come here.

We were pulling towards the shore, I had just brought it closer.

He told my husband: “Look for me if you have a cable, a fiber.

I assure you”.

And if he didn't have any, he would get out and run to a neighbor.

He was going to look for something to tie up with.

I made a knot for it, put it on the ankle of the body.

He secured it with something so the river wouldn't wash it away.

He did it with all the bodies he saw.

He saw them

He chased them and secured them so that the river would not take them away.

And well, I think it's nice that they called me "the Mother of the Dead."

At least it means that despite the bodies being dumped out there, in a river, at the moment of truth they are not so helpless.

The river means life expectancy.

Unfortunately, many see the river as death, although it is the hope for those who live on its banks.

In the beginning, when these corpses began to appear, when the Trujillo massacre, many people stopped buying fish.

The people of Beltrán and La Mirada, for example, used to fish and hardly ever bought that fish from them because they supposedly fed on the dead.

Those who do that should not treat the river as if it were a means of disappearance, of a grave.

The river is life expectancy,

it is the hope of all those who are living on those shores.

We need water.

For me the river is that: life expectancy.

Mountain Truths

I saw that the war took friends to the mountains, that they never came back, that we don't know where they are.

The paths of my town took illusions and dreams of moving the family forward.

And those who took them came to town to tell us: "I don't know, they went with me, but they weren't with me."

That is one of the regrets we have.

The mountain has secrets of pain.

The forest, the territory, also knows a truth.

And how do you tell that truth?

His vegetation is not the same when he tells us about the pain.

How shall I explain?

With the color, with the shape of the forest, a hunter knows that something abnormal happened, that there is something that doesn't... that doesn't fit.

That is the message that the mountain gives us.

The forest tells us many things, just as the mangrove is telling us: "My banks, my ravines."

The forest and the mangrove have not told us what happened to our friends, but they have shown us that there was left behind the traces of dreams that never came true.

I have never done what I just did, of crying.

But I connected a lot with what the mountain can see, with what the mangrove can see.

With that pain.

I wish the mountain could speak and tell us where my childhood friends are, from school, who left with the illusion of helping their relatives.

If the San Antonio estuary, if the mangrove swamp could speak... And I feel that they have spoken to us, that they changed their form and not only because of coca, but because of the mine.

The imprint of violence affects the territory so much that it changed.

I don't know if it's the right word, but today the plants are not the same.

Not even medicinal ones.

Although they are the same as we know, their color is not the same.

When we knead them, it is not the same.

Their trees are different.

Nature manifests its sadness in its shapes and colors.

Today one hardly says that is chachajo or that is caimito.

Our elders or ourselves here, on the other hand, could tell in the midst of all the multitude of trees who was who.

Now they are confused.

Now almost all colors are homogeneous, green like dapple.

It's not green, it's dull green.

It's a message.

And you will say: "Diego, but that is climate change."

Those of us who have contributed to the world are the blacks, the indigenous people.

This is a lung that we have taken care of, our legacy.

We know how things are, how that legacy works.

In other words, the territory is in pain and is showing it.

This is like a mutualism.

We gave to the territory and he gave to us.

When violence comes to the territory,

our presence is missed.

We don't have the same smell or the same intention since she arrived.

Within the mechanisms of telling the truth, a space is necessary to heal the territory.

And healing the territory is not just reforestation.

Healing the territory is going deep into the bush and playing a bass drum.

That the trees, that the plants, that the birds, listen to another sound: their sound.

clothes like ice

In Boyacá, life was also very difficult there.

Very cold, very difficult;

It was with a blanket and a sack.

That was to take the clothes, the suitcase, the equipment and do it again for those hills, for the pure moor.

We walked and arrived at night at a paddock.

We slept there, in full ice.

I was going to get the clothes and it was ice.

Everything was difficult.

Sleep overcomes one.

In the afternoon we couldn't eat anything, because it was like that for several days.

Lots of nerves.

I looked at the houses and he provoked me to knock so that they would let me change.

Stay in a house.

I took was a panela and a bag of pasta, and I do not remember what else.

He only had three things in his pockets and the rifle.

I don't remember what else.

Like some beans, I think.

My clothes stayed up there because of what the helicopter was shooting.

That was a piece of panela with water, when there was water from the river.

She took a handful of water and ate panela so as not to pass out.

I got home and hid in a banana tree.

I was afraid to go out.

A bomb fell near the farm, that is, many bombs fell.

I heard the cow bellow.

The others ran away.

I hit on the farm house as best I could.

A lady half leaned out and said “no, no, get out of here, I don't want any problems”.

I hid again.

That's when the troops came.

I came down from the house and sat on some stones that were there.

There was a lot of garden.

There I sat down and they told me: “Stay there!”.

I started running and they shot me.

Meeting for the Truth: recognition of the victims of extrajudicial executions in Colombia, Cali, on October 5, 2021. Truth Commission

divine secrets

Timbiquí was a very calm environment, very calm, what can I tell you.

Look, at the age I woke up, my youth... at seventeen I left my house, and I tell you that at that time there were two dancers in Timbiquí: Tiotón and Con Fu.

And I tell him that on weekends we would get into those dance halls.

The gallada of young and young women would leave at two, three in the morning from that bailadero, and we would walk the town and we would feel calm.

That started and I remember it like breakfast bread, when coca began to be published.

Get the date out of it: for me, coca violence dates back to around eighteen years ago.

That's where the violence started.

Before coca came the para, the paramilitaries.

If they.

In other words, they came as if they were opening a town to let in those who came to cultivate coca, because they were some of the coca hotbeds.

All this for the worse, because then with the belief or the overcoming of coca money they try to modify the traditional.

In other words, people take their patients and if possible take them far to the city, that is where they are encouraged, that is where they go and come back.

See, I survived, I resisted for the love of my country, my Timbiquí, my divine secrets.

They are not evil secrets.

Malinos are human things.

Things that are not spiritual, right?

Mine are divine.

Evil secrets are used to... Here in Timbiquí some use them to defend the body, to fight.

Also to put evil spirits into the person, do you understand?

The divine secrets are to bring life.

In Buenaventura, I had the first delivery that I attended alone.

A girl was born.

That's when people started calling me, well, looking for me.

They were going to see Mrs. Plácida, the one who broke me.

She taught me.

“Oh, Doña Plácida, a birth, and how does she do to have it”.

"Go to my comadre, she already knows how to attend a birth, because she already has a notion."

And there Thurs, I began to attend to one, I attended to the other.

The boys know that I helped them get to life and they call me “godmother”, they respect me.

Today I belong to the Association of Midwives.

For me to sustain this I practically have a roof, and what does not fit on the roof I have in pots.

I have my plants at home, I hardly go out looking for plants elsewhere.

I get everything on my roof.

Before I give it to my companions so that they do the breeding of the plant.

The voices of mothers, children, widows, wives, soldiers and guerrillas appear in these pages, which recount the exile, the cruelty of the FARC, the kidnappings, the horror of the crimes of the State, the Army, the paramilitary violence, of the young people recruited, of the moment someone decides to arm themselves. Silence also appears.

“There are unspeakable issues, that are impossible to name or that fall short in their enunciation.

This has to do with the integrity of the person and with his intimate pain.

Perhaps silence is his way of witnessing.”

Installation ceremony of the Truth Commission. Truth Commission

fear can not be so boar

The explosions were very hard, they almost blew us through the roof.

My son was about four years old.

He hears a flask and for the house, brother, there is no more.

My mom, for example, what she told you, she hears any noise and says "My God!, again?".

Oneself goes out into the street and always goes out to see what is happening, with great fear.

That is not easy to erase, that remains in the subconscious.

One sees a fight and rather takes off.

By that time it was worse, my mom didn't even go out to the corner.

I say one day to a friend “look at her, my mom is going to go crazy if she doesn't leave that house again”;

and he was in something similar, the same thing was happening to him.

We didn't go out, we didn't talk about it, we all kind of hid.

A bit of park was badly needed.

One day a neighbor told me “no, man, it's just that the fear can't be so boar that we get into the park.

They can control us whatever they want, but leave the park for the mothers, for the old people”.

The FARC came and went around.

One day we said "let's not be afraid of them anymore, well, what else can they do to us?".

They had already done everything for us.

We put together a group that was in charge of telling people: “Go out to the park, let's have a retreat, let's try to forget that bitter moment a little bit”.

The FARC came to one of those stalls in vans, they surrounded us, and we had to leave.

As a community we told them “we are not leaving, you are leaving, we are not moving from here in the park!”, and we stayed in our position with music, burning gunpowder.

That retreat had as a result that they did not bother us again for being with music, sharing.

You who listen to me will say "that's not much", but look, nobody imagines what it means to be able to go out to a park, to share.

The outbreak

The power of the pot We begin to hear screams inside the Portal.

Friends from the neighborhood begin to contact us.

“We are hearing screams inside the Portal, they are putting people, the boys.

They are taking them and gassing them inside.”

A neighbor called us to make a community pot to denounce what had happened.

She made the pot and the first day five people arrived;

the second day, ten people.

At one point this got bigger, a lot of people came.

Here there are people who have, maximum, one meal a day.

You tell them “come we are making severe soup”, and they fall.

We had to put the pot.

We realized that when it was there was no crowd.

That is why we came up with the idea of ​​making a humanitarian space.

Our purpose was to get Esmad out of the Portal, which was taking it over as an operations center.

It was impressive, an excessive force for the neighborhood.

We wanted to de-escalate the violence.

The pot became a very important point.

That force that produces a small pot, a piece of tin and some food that brings people together.

A lot of culture, a lot of lacks too.

Here something that brings us together is the food and the desire to change this pod.

From there arises the stigmatization towards the community pot.

No one wants us "nobodies" to organize to change this.

For us, something was brewing that was going to change the history of the town and the world.

What keeps us there for a long time, whole days, is all that walking in community, in collectivity, which has been going on for a few years.

Not as organized, it's more like a networking exercise.

Patch meetings that have been organized around the pre-U, to strike exercises that converge here.

They are eminently women, they are the partners of the neighborhoods.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2022-06-29

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