In 2001 I attended the inauguration of the Spanish version of Ingrid’s Betancourt’s book La Rage au Coeur, in Bogota, Colombia, and her ensuing presidential campaign speeches. While I was impressed with her convictions, enthusiasm, and desire for peace and change for her county, I felt that she could never achieve in Colombia what is unattainable in the United States and Europe. I followed her 6 years of captivity in the Colombian, Spanish, French and American press closely and admired Astrid and her family’s never ending persistent, to liberate Ingrid. I know enough about the dynamics and political backdrop of her liberation to know that without the efforts of Ingrid’s family, she, and those freed with her, would have been left to die in the jungles of Colombia by the “important” people of this world.
However, it was upon reading the following passage in her book Letter to My Mother that was published during her captivity, that I thought to myself; “This is exactly the torment and fear that I have lived for the past 3 years, and that all too many women and children around the world live for an entire lifetime. And, no one really cares, as I have learned the hard way! "
This is where the true battle lies for peace and democracies, not in political campaigns and politically correct rhetoric!
I owe an enormous amount of gratitude to Ingrid and Astrid. At the end of 2007 I realized that my children would end up under the custody of their emotionally unstable father, and his and his family’s influence and mercy. In my desperation, I contacted every association whose mission is to help women in my situation and anyone and everyone I have known during my life-time, who have any kind of “power,” asking for their assistance. THE ONLY person who provided any assistance was Astrid Betancourt.
The amount of people who provided me with empty rhetoric and promises, ignored me, or slammed the proverbial door in my face was amazing. The apathy and indifference of people over the life of a woman and her children stunned and disillusioned me more than I had even been in my entire life, and is precisely why what happened to me and my children occurs everyday, everywhere.
Additionally, for the first time in my life I was presented with a problem that I did not know how to handle or confront, and had no one to turn to for advice. It was in re-reading Ingrid’s book La Rage au Coeur that she gave me the advice and answer that I needed.
I will be indebted to these two women for the rest of my life, not only did they assist me in a practical way, but they have given me the strength to continue fighting day after day, by observing the courage and force that they had shown in face of horrifying challenges and adversities. After 6 years of living in Colombia with security concerns of my own children and family, witnessing kidnappings, homicide and terrorist attacks, I can appreciate the emotional strain that Ingrid's captivety was for the entire family.
The entire world would do well to look to these two women, their mother, their children and family to see where true values lay, whether it be of a family or nation. True values, morals and integrity are not to be found on a slip of paper, whether they be on marriage certificates, birth certificates, constitutions, declarations of rights, or legal codes, but rather through love, honor and dignity. And, I have observed Ingrid and Astrid demonstrate all three of these on various occasions over very many years.LETTER TO MY MOTHER by Ingrid Betancourt.
This is a very dense jungle where sunlight scarcely ever penetrates, and it is barren of affection, sympathy, or tenderness.
They separated me from the people with whom I had a good rapport and affection and put me in with a very difficult group. I am tired, Mamita, tired of suffering. I have been, or tried to be, strong. These nearly six years of captivity have proven that I am not as resistant, not as brave, not as intelligent, not as strong as I thought. I have put up many battles, have tried to escape several times, have tried to keep up hope like one keeps one’s head above water. But, Mamita darling, I give up. I would like to think that one day I will get out of here, but I realize that what happened to the congressmen which affected me so deeply-could happen to me at any moment. I belief it would be a relief for everybody.
I keep thinking that at last I am going to cry no more, that it has now healed over. But the pain starts up again and attacks me like a vicious dog, and I again feel my heart breaking into pieces. I am tired of suffering, of bearing it all inside me all the time, of lying to myself, of believing that this will soon end and finding that every new day is the same hell as the one before. I think of my children… We have gone through so much together, have lived our lives so intensely that terra firma seems to have disappeared in the distance. They are the same, and yet they have changed, and with every second of absence, of my inability to be there for them, to assuage their pain, to be able to advise them or give them strength and patience and humility in the face of life’s blows, all the lost opportunities to be their Mama, poison these moments of infinite loneliness for me, as if I were given an intravenous injection of cyanide.
Mamita darling, this is a very difficult moment for me. They demand a proof of life and here I am pouring my heart out to you on this sheet of paper, I am in poor physical condition. I haven’t been eating; my appetite has shut down; my hear is falling out in clumps; I have no desire for anything. And I think the latter is the only thing that is right-having no desire for anything. Because here in this jungle the only answer to everything is “No.” It is better not to want anything so as to be free, at least, of desires....
I would like to ask you, Mamita darling, to tell the children that I want them to send me three messages a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Ask them to send you a couple of lines to your e-mail address so that you can read them to me. Nothing world-shaking, just whatever they can think of to write, such as “Mamita, today is a marvelous day” or “I’m having lunch with Maria; I love her very much and I know you are going to be pleased with her” or ‘I am exhausted but I learned a lot today in class about new filming techniques that I’m excited about.” I don’t need anything more, but I do need to be in contact with them. In fact, everyday I wait anxiously to see if you are going to mention them or if you talked with them. That is what makes me happy, the only thing I care about knowing, the only vital, significant, indispensable information. All the rest doesn’t matter to me…..
Well as I was telling you, life here is no life; it is a gruesome waste of time. I live, or survive, in a hammock strung between two poles, covered with mosquito netting and a canvas that acts as a roof, which to keep my belongings, that is to say, the knapsack with my clothes and a bible my only luxury. Everything is prepared for leaving on the run. Here, nothing is one’s own, nothing lasts; uncertainty and precariousness are the only constant……..
Everyday less and less of myself remains….. Everything is hard. That’s the reality. It is important that I dedicate these lines to those who are my oxygen, my life-to those who keep my head above water, who do not let me drown into oblivion, emptiness, and despair. They are you my children…..Tell them that they have never ceased to be my source of joy in this harsh, captivity. Everything here has two sides, joy comes with pain, happiness is sad, love cures and opens new wounds; to remember is to live and to die anew…..
I was telling you that for years I was unable to think of the children because of the dreadful pain it cause me not being with them. Now I can hear them and feel more joy than pain. I seek them in my remembrances and sustain myself with the images I keep in my memory of the ages of each. I sing “Happy birthday” to them on every birthday …. I celebrate their birthdays in my heart…. And, if I were to die today, I would go satisfied with life, thanking God for my children…..
For a long time, we have been the lepers that mar the ball, we captives are not a politically correct topic…… We must think of where we come from, who we are, and where we want to go. I aspire to our having that thirst for greatness one day that makes people rise up from nothingness to the sun. When we are unconditional vis-avis the defense of the life and liberty of our own, that is, when we are less individualistic and more committed to the common good, less indifferent and more involved, less intolerant and more compassionate, then at that time we will be the great nation (world) that all of us would like to be. That greatness is there asleep in our hearts. But hearts have hardened and weigh so heavily that no elevated sentiments are permitted….
,,,The wars waged against the freedom of a handful of forgotten ones are like a hurricane seeking to bring down everything. It is of no interest. His intelligence, his nobility, and his devotion have given pause to many, and here, more than the freedom of some poor crackpots chained up in the jungle, it is a matter of taking stock of what it means to defend human dignity.
Until human dignity, honor and peace exist within our hearts and our homes, it will never exist within our communities, societies and this world. Quenby Wilcox