By Parrish W. Jones
©2006.All rights reserved.
(The following is a work of fiction that is based on the many stories that I heard in Colombia and what I imagined may be the experience of a child going through that kind of experience. As far as I know the characters would only resemble persons actually living or dead.)
I was ten when they came—men with big guns in camouflage clothes. Until then, our life was good—not rich but good. Our family had 10 hectares to work. We grew vegetables, had a cow, chickens, a mule, a cart, and a nice house with a cooking fire. We used the neighbor’s bull so our cow could have calves and keep milking. Every year we had a two year old calf for meat part of which we ate and part we bartered with for things we needed.
Then the armed men came. Dad said they were rebels, but we had nothing to do with them. They just went through the village demanding food and clothes and went on.
A while later others came and took over several houses forcing the people to leave and stay with neighbors. We huddled together and prayed thay would leave. But the men talked about hearing of similar things happening in other villages and seemed worried.
When morning came, we heard riffle shots. Someone said that the men were shooting at others in the streets. Dad told us to lie down on the floor and not move. Bullets went through the house above us. Then as suddenly as it started, the shooting stopped.
Dad made us stay inside, but later we overheard the men saying that several persons were killed or wounded. One was my friend who died several days later. I asked Dad, “Will they kill me, too?” He grabbed me and hugged me and cried, “Dios mio, no!”
We were left alone for a while but the adults were tense. They watched us more carefully—told us not to play outside the village anymore.
Then they came again and forced us all into the church, held up packets of money they said each held 300 thousand pesos. They told the men to go get their land titles. When they returned they told them to sign the transfers and take the money. Some didn’t have titles—they shot them right there. One said the money wasn’t enough. They shot his hand off. He signed. Another said, “No!” They grabbed his wife and held a gun to her head until the man signed. Then they let her go and laughed like it was a big joke.
When they were done, they told us, “Get your stuff and get out by morning!” Everybody did.
They told us we could not take the good road so we couldn’t use the carts because they couldn’t pass the bad road. All we could take was what the horse and the cow could carry. On the way the cow was getting sick and slowing us down, so Dad shot the cow. It was terrible because we loved her and she gave us so much. Then like so much—she was gone, too.