San Vicente del Caguan, Colombia April 14, 2001
Guerrilla camp education center.
Vicente del Caguan, Colombia, April 14, 2001
The day begins at 4:30 am with a heavy program of physical exercise
followed by breakfast, military drills and ceremonial raising of the
Colombian flag. Throughout the day there are education workshops. The
troops study political economy, the history of the FARC, radio communications,
munitions and explosives. There are also tasks to perform for the camp--gathering
wood and attending to gardens of plantain and vegetables.
At lunch I have a chance to talk with several
of the combatants. Some joined the guerrillas after paramilitaries massacred
people in their villages. Others like Patricia, a pretty twenty-year-old
tells me she ran away from abuse at home.
"My mom used to beat me every day. I couldn't
stand it and so when I was eleven I ran away and joined the guerrillas.
At first it was very hard getting used to taking orders and carrying
a heavy gun. But you grow accustomed to the rhythm of military life."
When I ask Patricia what she thinks of kids who join gangs she recalls
the kids from the urban neighborhood where she once lived. "In
one way you can understand the gangs because they defend their barrio.
But they also harm other people. In the guerrilla we're fighting for
all of Colombia not for a barrio. We're fighting for women and for children,
to change society. It's true that many more people are going to die
in this war. To see change you must see death. But our struggle is just.
And we will fight as long as the army hides behind paramilitaries who
kill the peasants."
Patricia isn't sure that peace will come in her lifetime. And she tells
me that she thinks that the FARC will exist as a military force even
after peace comes. When I press her about her postwar dreams and whether
she wants to have children of her own someday she replies, "I want
to be an example--a comandante. I would find civilian life boring. Maybe
I want children someday. But I don't like being around children much.
After one hug and a kiss I just feel strange like I want to get away.
I don't know why."
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