A panorama of Mulatos Peace Village

It is the fifth day of our accompaniment in the Peace Village of the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community in Mulatos, the same place where on 21 February 2005 eight people, including three children, were massacred. Amongst those killed was Luis Eduardo Guerra, the Peace Community leader, his wife and their eleven year old son. Twelve years have passed since the massacre, and after the return of the community members to Mulatos in 2008, the place has changed.


We are sitting in the village kiosk. It is an open, circular space, which is used for community meetings and assemblies.  On the left flows the Mulatos river.  In front you can see a banana plantation, some straw roofs where the mules and horses shelter when it is raining – or where the people hang their hammocks if they need a dry place to rest. Next to the hut is the Luis Eduardo Guerra library, where we hang our hammocks to get out of the cold at night.


A bit further down on the right there is vegetable patch full of tomatoes, cabbages and onions, the school, with the Peace Community’s hymn written on the wall.  Beyond that is the village’s main building with a kitchen and open living room, where people pass through, chat for a while and continue on their journey.  Further beyond is a field which is empty for now, and at the end of it is a gate where we hung the PBI flag.  Behind the gate is the Mulatos river again.

Going out the gate and crossing the river, it takes just a few minutes to get to the place where, in April, the Peace Community’s members on their Easter Week pilgrimage came across an armed group.  In the group there were men dressed in civilian clothes and in camouflage uniforms, and several of them had their faces hidden. The Peace Community reported their presence and gave their testimony in front of Congress.[1]


This was not the first time this year that Peace Community members ran into armed groups, and they don’t even need to leave the gate to do so.  In the same place where we are sitting, at the beginning of the year, the Community reported that armed troops had appeared, claiming to be members of the ‘Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia’, despite the area being clearly signposted as a place free of all armed actors.  The Peace Community’s members, based on that principle, asked them to leave and respect this non-violent living space.[2]

Today everything seems calm. Clouds are forming in the blue sky, but the sun is holding the rain from the clouds at bay. Under the sun, between the kiosk and the banana plantation, there is a filly lying on the ground.  Fillies, the children playing on the grass explain to us, are young female horses.  The filly’s elder sister is at her side, and sniffing the sick filly’s head.

At the end of the plantation you can hear the hacking sound of machetes.  Peace Community members are clearing the weeds around the crops.  The plantation was sown recently, with the help of Peace Community members from other settlements, who made solidarity visits to Mulatos village when they heard that neo-paramilitary groups had been present near the village, to resist as a community and to remain in their territory.

Behind the hut two young people are working on a sad task.  One of the dogs from the village has died and the young people are burying the body of the dog they had known for several years. Another two young people are saddling a mule. They are going to fetch yucca for dinner from a farm on the other side of the river. The mule that will take them there is the same one which carried us up on the day before when we and some of the villagers went to La Cumbre farm.  Some of the Peace Community’s cows travelled up with us, so they could reach better pastures.  What a job, to travel with the cows amongst forests, stones and mud! When we arrive, the impressive few of the Abibe Mountains made us forget the blisters on our feet from the climb, and the milk the farmers give us quenched our thirst.  Later that day we went back down to the village without the cows, and with two sackfulls of corn.

We stay in the kiosk while the young people head off from the village on the mule.  Ten years ago, before the 2008 return, the view from this place was different.  Like it also says in a book from the village library, the whole area was covered in weeds and just a few ruined buildings amongst them. In 2008, the Peace Community members walked for two days from their main settlement in San Josecito to reach the village.  The Peace Community’s return to Mulatos followed the return of displaced families from all around the area, people who had been forced to leave in the 1990s, during the worst period of paramilitary violence ever witnessed in the Abibe Mountains.[3]


At last the filly has stood up and starts to eat. They are calling us from the kitchen.  When we get there we are given arepas made from the corn that we brought down from La Cumbre, with beans and rice harvested by the Community itself.  And luckily it is avocado season.

Michaela Soellinger / Gerardo Arce


[1] Noticias Uno: Hombres armados con prendas militares siguen patrullando la comunidad de San José de Apartadó, 29 May 2017
[2] Comunidad de Paz San José de Apartadó: Paramilitares violan a menor de edad en San José de Apartadó, 2 January 2017
[3] Ibid. Paramilitares violan a menor de edad en San José de Apartadó

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