Break the silence

I need to cry, or maybe scream. I don’t know I need to liberate all this anguish and rage that is harboured in my heart. But no, I won’t shriek or shed a tear, to calm myself down I will tell you a story.


I have just returned from Boyacá, a department in Colombia that at the end of the eighties and throughout the nineties was cruelly devastated by violence. The river Lengupá passes through Boyacá, meandering through the municipalities of Miraflores, Páez, Berbeo and others. From the edge of a sharp cliff situated in a beautiful setting that they call Buenavista one can see the Lengupá down below. Magnificent mountains surround the river.

In the period that I have previously mentioned, the years of intense violence in Boyacá, students, peasant farmers and people who wanted to change Colombia fell victim to the paramilitaries. Their crime was wanting to change something.  Their punishment was to be thrown from Buenavista into the abyss; eventually landing in the Lengupá River below. They were thrown alive.


The local population, silenced by fear, stayed quiet about this dreadful atrocity for many years. However, since 2014 and encouraged by human rights organisations, the family members of the victims bravely meet there. They meet on the same edge of the precipice that was the scene of the crime involving their loved ones. And in an emotional act of memory narrate slowly and with difficulty their stories. They let loose with their suffering, they get things off their chest and at the same time they forgive.


This admirable lesson in courage and kindness makes us think that peace in Colombia, more than an equal division of land, more than social justice and an effective democracy, needs to break the silence. It needs to tell to remember, to speak to calm the pain, to forgive and to reconcile. It needs to tell indefinitely, to build peace.

Bego, brigadista with PBI Colombia

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