Memory and Resistance in North-East Antioquia

On 3 August 2019 the Humanitarian Action Corporation for Coexistence and Peace in North-East Antioquia (Corporación Acción Humanitaria por la Convivencia y la Paz del Nordeste Antioqueño – CAHUCOPANA) opened its first House of Memory in Lejanías (Antioquia department) and commemorated the massacre of Altos de Manila and Cañaveral in the hamlet of Cancha Manila, situated in the village of Altos de Manila, some 40 minutes from Lejanías. PBI was there.

The first time that “Rayito” was displaced was in 1966. After his mother was murdered by paramilitaries in the Chocó department, Braulio Enrique Gracia tried to start afresh in new farmlands near Puerto Berrío (Antioquia department).  In 1989 he was once again forcibly displaced by the same armed group. That is how “Rayito” ended up in North-East Antioquia. In this region, at the start of the 2000s, Rayito took part in the creation of humanitarian action committees, which grew into CAHUCOPANA[1], which he also helped to found.

Thirty years after his arrival, Rayito continues to live in Lejanías, the community that welcomed him and which he helped to found. He also continues to take part in the village’s humanitarian actions. Rayito continues to resist and work to defend the land together with his community. And thirty years later, the House of Memory bears his name.

Braulio Enrique Gracia «Rayito», member of Cahucopana

The Braulio Enrique Gracia House of Memory

From the outside, the house is like all the houses in Lejanías: bare wooden boards, a porch, a small patio with some fruit trees that provide shade. But from the moment that Rayito reveals the plaque, visibly moved, this is the Braulio Enrique Gracia House of Memory. Inside, this is a space for memory in a region that experienced the onslaught of the armed conflict first-hand.

On the walls, a chronological time-line summarises the journey of CAHUCOPANA in North-East Antioquia since it was founded, the attacks it has suffered and its resistance process. The building also houses a photographic gallery that pays tribute to the victims of extrajudicial executions[2]. The photographs are a reminder that between 2004 and 2009, 18 small-scale farmers were killed by Colombian National Army soldiers in this region[3].

In one of the photographs, a woman holds a picture of her son. His name was Sigifredo. Luis Sigifredo Castaño Patiño, a small-scale farmer from Caño Tigre, member of his local Community Action Board and of the CAHUCOPANA Committee. He was killed 14 years ago when he was getting ready to participate in a meeting of the humanitarian action committee. He never got to the meeting. While he was still at home, soldiers arrived from the “Demolition Number 1” (Demoledor Número 1) squad under the command of Lieutenant Blanquised, of the Calibio Battalion, XIV National Army Brigade. They dragged him out of his home and killed him. His body was dressed in camouflage gear to make it look like he was a guerrilla killed in combat, even though Sigifredo was disabled in one arm[4].


For Cristy Lozano, who is responsible for CAHUCOPANA´s work on ​​memory and victims, the Houses of Memory aim to “[rebuild] the historical, collective and individual memory of small-scale farming and mining communities (…) who have been caught in the midst of a long political, social and armed conflict. The houses also aim to raise awareness of what happened so that these victimising events do not happen again and society in general knows the truth in the words of the victims themselves”.

The aim of the House is not only to build Memory inside its walls but also outside, in a Memory Garden. In this garden each person present at the opening of the space planted a tree in commemoration of the victims. As part of the resistance processes, of the struggle for life, freedom and territory, Memory is kept alive by creating more life in these lands.


Massacre of Altos de Manila and Cañaveral in 1983

Between 4 and 12 August 1983, around 30 members of a paramilitary group led by Fidel Castaño perpetrated a massacre against small-scale farmers and mining workers from the Cañaveral and Altos de Manila villages. They detained a group of people, accused them of being part of the guerrilla and then killed them[5]. Today, 36 years after the massacre, the communities of Altos de Manila and Cañaveral, together with CAHUCOPANA, were able to honour the victims.

As part of the process to build Memory, a commemorative event was held. This act remembered the name of each one of the murdered persons that could be identified, a remembrance plaque was installed in the corner of the field around which the community has developed and, as in Lejanías, trees were planted in Memory of each victim of the massacre.


The total number of people killed is unknown, as some were thrown into the Manila, Tamar and Mulatos Rivers and others were mutilated. Only 20 people could be identified, 17 men and three women, four of whom were children or adolescents. In a few cases people were killed with firearms, but most of them were killed with sharp, blunt objects, or were asphyxiated[6]. Those who did not lose their lives but witnessed the massacre had to flee to the cities of Segovia and Remedios[7].

According to the testimony of the inhabitants of these villages, several soldiers from the Bomboná Battalion were part of the group of perpetrators. Moreover, the paramilitaries used two trucks that the Army borrowed from a private individual and the Frontino Gold Mines mining company, as well as a third vehicle from a miner in the region, named Oscar Lopez, aka Relámpago[8].


According to Cristy Lozano, this event is not merely symbolic. “The historical memory [of] the struggle and resistance of rural communities enables us to identify mechanisms and organisational methods to defend human rights, resist in these territories and build a dignified life[9].

As in Lejanías, the community in Altos de Manila decides to plant trees in commemoration of the victims. As in Lejanías, the community chooses to keep its Memory alive by creating more life in its lands.

Diego Lantero y Jessica García



[1]  Cristina Lozano,  CAHUCOPANA.

[2] Although the term “extrajudicial killings” refers to the “la privación arbitraria de la vida por parte de agentes del Estado, o con la complicidad, tolerancia o aquiescencia de éstos, sin un proceso judicial o legal que lo disponga” (Henderson, 2006), in this case it refers to the killing of civilians with the aim of passing the victims off as having been killed in combat. There are no clear figures on the total number of victims of this kind of extrajudicial killing in Colombia. Further information on this can be found at: Colombiacheck: Explicador: Cuántos son los casos de ‘falsos positivos’, 16 April 2019

[3]CAHUCOPANA: Facebook publication, 3 August 2019.

[4] CAHUCOPANA: Publicación en, Facebook, 7 August 2019.

[5]Rutas del conflicto. Masacre de Cañaveral y Altos de Manila.  Date consulted: 12 August 2019.

[6]Rutas del conflicto. Masacre de Cañaveral y Altos de Manila.  Date consulted: 12 August 2019.

[7] According to the last UNHCR report (2019), Global Trends 2018, “Colombia continued to report the highest number of internally displaced people with 7,816,500 at the end of 2018 according to Government statistics. During 2018, 118,200 new displacements were reported”.

[8]Rutas del conflicto. Masacre de Cañaveral y Altos de Manila.  Date consulted: 12 August 2019.

[9]  Cristina Lozano, Cahucopana.

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