This is main reason why Blanca Nubia Diaz has spent over 30 years working for justice and truth for the victims of the armed conflict in Colombia. She has known PBI since 2002, and always brings energy and happiness when she stops by the organisation’s house in Bogota. She explains that social change is achieved through individual and collective effort, as she found out when sharing her experiences with others, and she also feels supported by the national and international human rights community.
She was born in Cousepa (Guajira), and her trajectory in human rights was indirect to start, because she knew nothing of the armed groups in the country, although she had heard about threats and killings in her region. She began her career as a nurse and worked in indigenous communities in many different parts of the country, including Antioquia, Putumayo, Choco and Cesar. Conditions were very hard, with very long days when she would be up before dawn and walk 15km to reach the rural areas where she worked.
She cultivated people’s trust, and learnt a lot about traditional knowledge, customs, dances, arts and herbal remedies of the indigenous people. But she also became very conscious of the discrimination and poverty: “I saw the injustice there is in the country, for the small-scale farmers as well as the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. Seeing them, I suffered as if they were my own family”. That is how she started talking to the authorities about health problems and malnutrition in the communities and bringing people to urban centres for medical attention.
As the years went by, Blanca distinguished herself in her community as a person who knows about people’s rights and needs, and they started to come to ask for her accompaniment during property transactions, land registration and medical appointments. Because there was so much discrimination against indigenous people, Afro-Colombians and women, Blanca’s role was to ensure that their rights were respected and that they were not misled. In 1986 she joined the Association of Indigenous Family Farmer and Black Women of Colombia (ANMUCIC)
The struggle has not been without pain or fear: “I am one more victim of the conflict in this country, of the illegal armed groups”, Blanca says. ANMUCIC has also been the target of threats.
Her husband and other members of her family died in the armed conflict, and in 2001, her daughter Irina del Carmen Villero Diaz, was raped, tortured and killed by paramilitaries in Guajira. Blanca was forced to leave her community and move to Bogota.
She values her struggle as something fundamental in her life, her time with ANMUCIC was an empowering experience, like “a diploma where we women learned to speak up, be brave and face up to the State about our rights and our land”.
In 2005, Blanca became one of the founding members of the Bogota Chapter of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE). Through this organisation she continues to accompany victims and communities in their search for justice.
She explains that there is still a lot of fear about speaking out about the violence from the armed actors, and victims’ families need to receive practical and moral support.
Encouraging people to bring their pain before justice, to take part in meetings and tell their story also gives her energy: “the path of my work has been beautiful. It’s been useful for me. What’s helped, I have recorded… I’ve suffered, but all this has helped me to build something strong”. Above all she emphasises the importance of sharing the struggle with the next generation, so that they can continue calling for truth, justice and peace.