The Community transmits peace

The community transmits peace. The enemies of these brave men and women are placing violent pressure on the community to prevent their example of resistance from extending further. Nevertheless, inside the community, life is not only continuing, every day new achievements are made and new goals are planned, as the community continues to build pathways to peace. “They have filled our lands with rivers of blood”, but “we will never stop claiming the right to life for ourselves and for others from our region”[1].

The day begins, accompanied by the aroma of coffee, a gentle breeze and the smiles of children, who are freshly washed and groomed ready for school in La Holandita. There they receive a unique kind of education, not only because their teachers pay attention to the different needs and abilities of each student, but also because the history they learn has been written by their own community. And one day a week, these new generations take part in community work with the adults: with laughter and singing they clear away any weeds from the village, they separate out the impurities from the cacao grains, and they feed the animals, among other tasks.

Memorial to the victims of the massacre of February 21th 2005

On this particular morning, wood must be gathered, essential for cooking and for maintaining the humble yet dignified houses that they built with their own hands when they moved the village 13 years ago. After the massacre of 8 people in 2005[2], the government built a police station in the centre of San José de Apartadó; the community packed up all their belongings, gathered all that was left of their historical memory and settled in the neighbouring farmlands of La Holandita, where with enormous effort they built what is now San Josesito[3]. In this way they have been able to keep intact their principle of neutrality towards all armed actors and avoid the risk of finding themselves in the middle of the crossfire between the police and any potential aggressors.

Nowadays, without going far outside the village itself, they cut down trees with chainsaws, which could inspire terrible fear, but which in their hands are innocent and practical tools. They then cut the wood into planks or smaller pieces. Today, they have also cut wood to make a small table and chairs so that various generations can get together and play open-air domino matches when the sun goes down and it gets cooler. We PBI accompaniers look on with admiration at their skill in cutting the wood and a level of wonder at the joy on their faces, despite the hot sun and the heavy loads they carry on their shoulders.


At midday, this activity stops momentarily for lunch. The community make good use of the rice, plantains, beans and other carbohydrates they need for the huge amount of energy they burn in their daily physical work; some of us PBI observers sigh with resignation as we watch our bellies growing bigger by the day.

The drowsiness caused by the food is counteracted with a good black coffee and more activity. For days now, one group has been working on repairing the rice mill. It has been a while since they used the machine, and so while some check it over and discuss which parts to adjust, others finish the cover in which it is housed to protect it from rain and possible theft, given that it is located near the boundary between the community and the Apartadó-San José road. Each time someone passes by they look up at the road: the neo-paramilitaries have repeatedly announced their intentions to invade San Josesito, commit a massacre and burn down the village[4], and the community has seen them pass by and heard shots over the last few weeks[5].

Gildardo y BT_blog

However, this understandable concern does not stop the work, or even alter their sense of humour. The community members joke with one another and with the PBI brigadistas who are accompanying them. They laugh as they remember recent anecdotes, such as when someone or other fell off their horse, or the modern hammocks where the PBI volunteers sleep, and other older jokes, like confusions over the brigadistas’ use of Spanish. We have been accompanying the community for almost two decades, sharing really difficult moments, but also making the most of the small pleasures that each day brings when life is lived with dignity. In the peace community, despite everything, the old Latin proverb “fortune favours the brave” rings true.

“Leave us in peace”

Night is falling in Mulatos  , after a day of intense work. The community is building new homes for families who are moving to the new Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village. Lands which were the scene of killings in February 2005 have been transformed into a space for new life in homage to the founder of the community and the others who were killed there[6]. The community has cleared the area of weeds and built a library, a school and a shop, and soon they will welcome more small-scale farmers who will sow resistance on the lands, defying those who would like to put an end to their community project.

Paco Simón, volunteer in the PBI Colombia team of Urabá

The community considers that the Colombian State is responsible for the multiple human rights violations they have suffered in their more than 20 years of existence, because “it has used paramilitary structures closely linked to its security forces, which have planned, among many other crimes, the physical elimination of our members and of small-scale farmers from our region”[7]. After the 2005 massacre they decided to break with State institutions. “Now we want them to leave us in peace. We are not asking for anything from the State, we don’t want its services or its investment. We just ask that they leave us in peace to farm the land freely”, says with certainty one of the few founders of the peace community who has survived these two decades of attempted extermination  .

Paco Simón


[1]       Peace Community of San José de Apartadó: Como en la masacre de las bananeras 90 años después: orden de matar a todo el que estorbe,

[2] El País: El campesinado heroico,; National Centre for Historical Memory: ¿Qué pasó en San José de Apartadó hace 8 años?, ; Los cabos sueltos de la masacre de San José de Apartadó,

[3] El Tiempo: San Josesito, lejos del retorno,

[4] Peace Community of San José de Apartadó: Avanza la agresión avalada por la impunidad,

[5] Peace Community of San José de Apartadó: Destruimos pequeñas armas que de todos modos nos iban a masacrar, como signo de nuestro repudio a las cadenas de muerte,

[6] PBI Colombia: For the love of land,

[7] Peace Community of San José de Apartadó: Avanza la agresión avalada por la impunidad,




Leave a Reply