“As a woman who has suffered and lived the war face on, you learn how to build peace”

Ruby is a young woman who grew up with the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community.  She is currently a member of the Internal Council, which is the body that manages the community on a day to day basis.  She surprises us when she tells us that she does not have more responsibility now than before. The main difference she sees is that the work she does is more visible, but the whole community has commitments and takes part in the collective work.

The Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado is a small-scale farmer initiative to create a neutral space in which to live in the midst of war, known on a national and international level, but that has had an especially big impact at a local level and on the lives of its members.  Being part of the Community means respecting principles like not collaborating with any armed actor either directly or indirectly, taking part in collective work, and having a strong stance on how to understand justice and establish the truth. [1]

The fight against impunity, after all that has happened in the Peace Community, is so entrenched that they have given up claiming compensation or humanitarian aid from the State.[2] Ruby mistrusts the peace being discussed in Havana and says: “we can see that, quite simply, they’re negotiating how they’re going to pay someone because they killed a relative, or how they can get in on the political scene… right?”,[3] And she asks rhetorically where in this war the poor population is going to be included.  “I can see that things for us are still going to be tight, tight…”.

Ruby does not just talk for the sake of it.  Her involvement in the Peace Community is marked by a fact that cuts across her life, that of her family and of the community itself:  the assassination of her uncle Luis Eduardo Guerra and her little cousin Deyner Andres, in 2005.  These killings and those of another family are known as the massacre of Mulatos and La Resbalosa. [4] Ruby’s family was displaced from area of Mulatos to the town of Apartado and the end of 1990s, when the paramilitary violence was unleashed in the area.

It was her uncle who, a few years after the displacement, had encouraged Ruby’s mother to return and join the Community. Luis Eduardo was the visible and charismatic face for others in the project.  Ruby, who was a little girl when they returned, especially remembers his kisses, his hugs and his smile.  “My uncle taught us a lot about the Community”, she tell us, and then shares the story of one the hardest events of her life, something that also moves her but in a positive way, “the support that we had from the Community was very great, in the form of the strength that we would get through this, that we would carry on our project and this struggle for the rest of our lives”.

5e Anniversaire du massacre de San Jose Apartado
One of the events that most impacted the Peace Community was the massacre of 21 February 2005. That day, eight people were murdered and dismembered in the rural areas of Mulatos and La Resbalosa. Photo: Damien Fellous / Libre arbitre

And if mutual support has been fundamental for the 18 years and more of the Peace Community’s existence, the women have been essential to it. This is what Ruby tells us; she says that although “they have also killed a lot of women in the violence”, (and women are affected by it often) “to keep on going because there are children and the land that you are working on, and that’s when a women must face the conflict head on”.  She considers that “the women will always end up suffering more”.  Nonetheless, Ruby sees how they have always tried to support these women in the Peace Community and how “women faced with tough situations are always searching for the creativity and joy to keep going. They give love. To social projects, women give their lives”.

Ruby is one of several young people who are gaining an ever greater role in the Peace Community, and that demonstrate through their daily actions that the project is still valid, and as she says herself, “as a women who has suffered and come face to face with war I have learnt how to build peace, how to work in a project that is different”.

Julia and Tamara


[1] Reglamento Interno de la Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó

[2] Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission: Carta de la Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartado ante perdón del presidente Santos, 17 December 2013

[3] Interview made in February 2016

[4]  Semana: Diez años de la masacre de San José de Apartadó,  21 February 2015

Leave a Reply