I had a very happy childhood. I grew up in a small village called El Placer, which means “Pleasure”. We didn’t have electricity, instead we used candles and the moonlight which shone above us. It was the most magical place, you’ve never seen so many flowers, exotic fruits, birds, and even butterflies with enormous, colourful wings. It was exactly how God describes the Garden of Eden in the bible; a natural paradise; fertile and beautiful.
But unfortunately the drug war snatched this away from us. It has deprived us of peace, of tranquility, of the beauty that was our home and it has destroyed these luscious lands.
One day in 1992, Colombia’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), arrived at our village and instructed my parents to sell our land. But my parents didn’t want to because it was our only way of making a living, so they said “No”. This group returned the next day armed with guns and machetes and gave us 24 hours to leave, or else they’d kill us by chopping us into pieces. I have never been so terrified. So we picked up our chickens and other basic belongings and left immediately.
But the group chased us further and further into the forest. They beat us, they tortured us, they abused us – me and my family. We spent eight days hiding in the jungle too terrified to leave, too scared to ask for help.
After these eight long days we eventually left and embarked upon a long journey to Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city. But still nobody would help us. We couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. We couldn’t even tell people that we were abused because of the panic and the fear which consumed us.
As more people arrived, we began to form settlements in the city and take in more and more people who were displaced from the countryside. At first we had no way of sustaining ourselves. But we knew how to sing, back home we used to sing while we cooked and while we washed, so we decided to go out into the city and do the same; we would sing, and people would donate what they could. With this money we were able to dress and feed ourselves, and keep on going.
Fundación Black Sombra – an organisation founded by Luz which supports families who have been displaced in drug war-fueled violence in Colombia
The situation here in Bogotá is extremely difficult, especially for black people. I’ve been a victim of the drug war, a victim of the armed conflict, and now I’m a victim of racism and discrimination as well. My family comes from a different culture, we were not taught to read or write, so it’s near impossible to find work – often people don’t let us work because of the colour of our skin.
In Colombia this happens all too often. Armed groups take over the land displacing entire communities with brute force and violence, forcing them to harvest coca and to enslave the people who live there. Those who were unable to get away. Many young people, teenagers and children, were recruited for the war. Some of my family have died here, including a 13 year old cousin. Fortunately others were able to escape later on, and at least they have a home and live here in the city. But many have disappeared. Some were killed in the mountains, others died on the journey.
And now our communities, which have been hit hardest by drug-war related violence in Colombia, are suffering from poverty. The aerial fumigation and eradication of drug crops has damaged the land completely and we’ve been left with nothing. The police and the army are everywhere, as soon as the crops flourish they are destroyed as they are illegal. Our lands were once extremely fertile, and rich in minerals such as gold, but they are now empty, dry, dead, there’s no chance of growing anything. Me and my family, my community, were displaced, but we cannot go back right now because our home has been turned into a desert.
So I campaign with Anyone’s Child because I want peace. I want a better world for all the families of victims of the armed conflict and the drug war. I have not given up, my past has given me a lot of strength to keep fighting. But we must end this drug war because if not, we won’t achieve peace in Colombia and our children will continue in the conflict.
* This story is a transcription of a telephone interview translated from Spanish