“Now it doesn’t hurt to remember, because I have forgiven”

These words were spoken by a victim of La Chinita massacre, which was commemorated last September.

On 23 January 1994, during a community celebration in a neighbourhood of Apartado (Antioquia), the FARC arrived and started shooting people, 35 were killed.

La Chinita was a neighbourhood where many people were demobilised combatants from the EPL (Popular Liberation Army), which had become a political movement: Esperanza, Paz y Libertad.   The FARC accused the demobilised EPL fighters of having betrayed the revolution[1]  and become commando units affiliated with paramilitary groups.[2]

Of the 35 people killed in the massacre, two were demobilised combatants, the others were local residents, banana plantation workers, two children and one woman. [3]

As part of the peace process, the victims’ association of La Chinita wrote a letter to the FARC delegation to ask them to recognise their responsibility in the massacre, ask for forgiveness and answer for the integral reparation of the victims.[4]

This action took place on 30 September 2016: a delegation from the FARC and the Government were invited to the neighbourhood, recognised their responsibility and asked for forgiveness.  PBI was invited to take part in the event, which was very moving.

The day started early, in “massacre street”, where victims, relatives, other communities who had come in solidarity, and national and international organisations came together to remember the events of January 23rd 1994. There was a minute’s silence, a prayer and then a walk, to San Pedro Claver College, with signs bearing words of forgiveness and hopes for a country at peace.

nathalie2

When we arrived at the college, the victims’ association met with the FARC, in a private space.  The ceremony then began with a theatrical work, where three victims were represented explaining that night of horror. In the work, they announced that “massacre street” would not be called that way anymore, it would be called “hope street”. It was a very emotional moment.

Afterwards, Silvia Berrocal from the victims’ association thanked everybody for being present, for the event, and the organisations which accompanied them after the massacre, including the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission, and Conpaz, and finally, she asked for reparation for the victims.

The head of the FARC delegation to Havana, Ivan Marquez, went on to declare: “With the deepest feeling of humanity and respect, 22 years after that sad day, the 23rd of January, we ask for forgiveness, the massacre should never have happened, but we are here to respond as an organisation, because we want to re-establish the relationships that were damaged by the violence”, he reaffirmed the guerrilla’s desire for peace and said they would respond, and give reparation to the victims of La Chinita.  At the end, when he finished, he hugged the victims.

Then the victims gave their testimonies, a daughter remembered her father dying that night, a widow gave homage to all widows, but also remembered how there were other massacres in Uraba, (seventeen), and this was an action on behalf of all the victims  in Uraba.[5]

The last speech was by High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo, who has been promoting peace and hope, and he too insisted on the need for giving reparation to the victims. The event finished with white balloons, dances, music, smiles and a lot of hope.

Nathalie Bienfait

[1] Verdad Abierta: Víctimas de La Chinita esperan explicaciones de las FARC, 15 January 2015

[2] El Espectador: Esperanzados que murieron hace 20 años en La Chinita”, 22 January 2014

[3] IPC, Masacre de La Chinita: “Porque pueden más los sueños que los recuerdos”, 23 January 2014

[4] Pacifista!, “La carta de las víctimas de la Chinita a las FARC”, 5 January 2016,

[5] Contagio Radio : Perdonamos y las víctimas decimos Si al plebiscito, 30 September 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s