"To build peace, you must understand the violence"

Cristina Zesatti
Posted August 3, 2009 from Mexico
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“Once upon a time, an old man was seated in front of his grandson, he was just thinking with his eyes closed. Regarding him, the little boy asked to his grandfather: -what are you thinking of grandpa’? – Shh, -be quiet- asked the man- because inside of my head, there is a big fight between two wolfs… one of them, is the wolf of fear, hate, misery, violence and all kinds of separation… the other wolf who is fighting, represents kindness, courage, forgiveness, peace and all kinds of confidence…- Wow- said the little boy- and tell me, who is going to win? – The old man kept in silence for a while, and then, opening his eyes quietly, he answered slowly to his grandson: - the wolf that is going to win this fight inside of my head, is that to whom I decide to feed more”

I don’t remember how old I was when my father told me this little story… I only know that I was young, and that the deep content of that tale, marked me in a fantastic way that I am still discovering today.

By that time, my father was confined in a wheelchair after an accident that left him handicapped when I was 8 … he was a wise man who taught me a lot of things, a lot of values, of course, along with my mother, from whom I also received many life lessons of love and strength to face any kind of circumstances… even the worst scenario.

I used to believe (I like to believe) that life is a long road of apprenticeship… and in that sense, I consider myself as a lucky woman, because in some way, life has provided me with the inner tools that I have needed to make the next steps.

Born in a perfect place and with a fortunate defect

At the moment that I came to this world (37 years ago) it was a normal thing that the families were numerous, because indeed, the Mexican government had been implementing some campaigns inviting people to have more children: they were in need for more population, and thus the country would eventually acquire more labor.

We were a “happy” country in that time. We had a rare political system, with only one political party in the power, with practically no opposition; so any kind of rebellion, any kind of social wound, any kind of attempt to change things (and there were many) was quickly silenced by an efficient machinery of something that the analysts used to call “the perfect dictatorship” (In fact, Mexico had presidents from the same party for 71 years, something unique in the entire world)

I am the last in line of a big family of 8 members: seven sisters and one brother. My mother had me when she was 43, and even we were not exactly poor, only the two last ones (my brother and I) were born in a hospital, also something normal for a country where development walked slowly, especially in those places far away from the Country’s capital city.

There at the hospital, just when I was being brought to this world, “life lessons” started for me: the nurse that was receiving me, broke something by accident in my spinal column. My parents tried to fix that damage for years, but I grew up with a little defect in my left arm… only after many (many) years after, I have learned that most of the times, the “worst” things that happen to you, could be actually a “gift from life”, which forces you to jump over “special present” disguised like “an obstacle”

Since that beginning, I have been learning from those “obstacles” that life has given to me. My father had his accident when I was a child and my mother showed us all the strength that was hidden in a fragile woman. Alone, from a one day to another, she managed to jump marvelously over the tragedy… and I still wonder how.

She became the perfect nurse, she was mother and father at the same time, she became a counselor, friend and authority, she built our family and supported my father, who slowly became and transformed himself into a very spiritual (not religious) person, all of the latter to her, because she was in charge and taking care of every need that we as a family had.

For us, their children, it was another “difficult gift” that gave us a weird but fantastic balance to face our lives. We grew up by learning from their daily example, both, material and spiritual… Definitely, we were born in a perfect place, and definitely, all of us we learned that our mission should be to continue the sample, and make grow up that seed planted in us

Everyone gets out of the labyrinth… but you must get lost inside of it first

I was born in Mexico, but even for me, is not easy to understand my own country. That is why I still consider my family as a “special and different laboratory”.

My mother was catholic, like 90% of the Mexican population, my father was protestant, something odd at the time, although not now. They had 7 girls but we never suffered “machismo attitudes” inside our family, which is usual in my culture. We never saw violence against us, when actually at least 7 of 10 Mexican women experiment that.

I live in a country with at least 50 millions of poor people, but I never suffered hungry. I never faced discrimination like the 10 millions of indigenous people; no one of my near relatives has died in a violent way or has been linked to the criminality. I use to feel that in some way, I grew up in a bubble of tranquility, even when all around me was completely different to the rest of Mexican population.

In 1950, only 4 years before of parent’s marriage, Octavio Paz, one of the best writers of my country, wrote ‘El laberinto de la soledad’(The Labyrinth of Solitude) a group of several essays, that together try to make a portrait of the Mexican character. His thesis was that ‘Mexican race is the result of a continued rape and violence’.

Indeed, our history is plenty of contradictions in that sense. We are a warrior race, but I am afraid that we lost the real sense of our fights. In some point, we stopped to fight for ourselves, and we started to fight against us. We forgot our dignity and we yield to the violence. At some place of the road, our fears were bigger of our courage and we lost the perspective.

And when you live in a country, when you belong to a culture, sooner or later, in one way or another, you also have to accompany its reality, even if you don’t want it, and that happened to me… it happened to my family too… “the wolf of violence” got stronger, and some of us got lost in that labyrinth… and now, (only now) I understand that it should had been that way

You can run away, but your mission will find you

In September 2001, I was working with NBC as a journalist, which I was my eternal dream. I had finished a special story of human strugglers in the Mexican-US border. One day, at the end of my duties I took a taxi and the driver kidnapped me. It was just an “express-kidnapping”, a very usual way to abduct people in my country in that time, after the street violence was growing up since the Mexican financial crisis of 1995.

I spent more than 3 hours fearing my own death, imagining it and preparing myself to face it. Finally the man took my belongings and left go. For me, September 11th is personally unforgettable: it was the day that the man who kidnapped me, called me home to say “he knew exactly where and how to find me”. I finally experimented in my own flesh the real violence of my country,

That day, I promised myself to run away from Mexico, but I could only do that in 2003, after my father’s dead… and after a miscarriage... it was a dark period in my life, because at that time I also started to suffer violence from my boyfriend, a kind of violence that I couldn’t identify on time because I have never seen it before… and there would be more...in fact, I know now, my true learning to find my mission had barely begun

During that time, when I was lost in the blackness of my mind, I also acknowledged that some of my sisters had faced illegal abortions, completely alone, desperate, and with all the dangers related.

It was difficult for me to believe and understand illegal abortions in my family. How? Why? And I have to say that this practice, even the abortion is now permitted in the capital of my country, since 2007,(although not yet in other cities) is still the fourth cause of death.

Fortunately, in my own case it was Nature who decided… and once again, only on time, I could understand that life is always wise if you really learn to read the messages… if you really understand that every event is a “gift from life” to form you into a better person…

Anyway, when I finally left my country in 2003, I didn’t know all this, and the “bad wolf” inside my head was still winning the fight, and would remain like that for a while, before I started to wake up

Don’t let reality ruin a good story

Voices of war and peace were fighting in the entire world when I arrived to my first auto-exile destiny: Brussels, in Belgium, where I landed to learn French… and most of all, to forget, to recover the inner tranquility, to find the way to get out of the labyrinth

My first and huge exterior decision was to quit international TV business; it was hard because of the times: precisely in March 2003 the coalition (US, UK and Spain) started the invasion to Irak... and it is true that we journalists are addicted to adrenaline, but little by little I did it: I turned off the television, and I took the first steps to become an investigative print journalist.

I forgot the war outside, and for a year, I was only concentrated in my own peace. I worked only for myself, I studied, I read, I started new contacts and searched stories to write: I discovered Women on Waves, the NGO of the ship for international free abortion, I heard for the first time about Chefs for peace initiative, and I was collecting “some good” stories to tell in my new elected journalistic position.

However, I was still damaged inside. My own story of violence with my former boyfriend was growing up, and somehow, I didn’t realize it in its entire magnitude… my self-esteem was disappearing in front in my eyes and without me noticing. I moved to Paris with him: my most important “gift of life” was about to arrive to my door, disguised of the worst time that I ever remember.

It took me almost a year to “have enough”. When I left him at the end of 2004, indeed, I was completely another person: weakened, frightened, broken… absolutely lost. I was a zombie, thinking of suicide, feeling betrayed and also a traitor of my own principles. Finally I dared to cry and to tell others what was happening to me, it was a very difficult step… but little by little, I started my own reconstruction. And life understood my sign when I said: “OK, show me what I have to learn from this”.

Peace is forgiveness … and to forgive, you must understand

To forgive is maybe the hardest lesson in life, and for that reason it is the most powerful inner tool. Any war, exterior or interior, could stop with a gesture of forgiveness.

In early 2005 I received an unexpected call: I was accepted to study “Culture of Peace” in Spain (did I ever asked for this? I was wondering to myself) I moved to Barcelona and there, I started to understand not only peace motivations, but violence as well, and that understanding was incredibly healing. Only then, I entirely opened the “gift of life” disguised of violence: I had been feeding the wrong wolf inside my head.

Since we had to write a little thesis by the end of my course in Barcelona, at the beginning I obviously decided to write about violence against women. But latter, I started to read news from Mexico, talking about thousands of executions linked to the drug trafficking. Then, I changed my mind.

I remembered my own kidnapping … and I remembered that people in my country –and most of all, the women- have been attacked by different kinds of violence in their daily lives (physical, cultural, economical, and a long etcetera) since many years ago… so I started an essay called: “Mexico in the labyrinth of contradictions: a war with no name”… and that essay was for me as an electric shock

There, far away in Spain, to gather the data that I needed, I was reading the press content of my country: things like “in Mexico, 120,000 women are victims of rape every year… at least 14,000 people are dying in violent episodes, about 4.2 million of people in Mexico have suffered a delinquency attack”. I didn’t stop to tremble until I finished my essay… then, another obsession started to grow up inside of me, because I noticed the supremacy of negative content in the press

I started to analyze other newspapers, international television and radio contents… and I started to see press with a completely different view. Yes, I discovered that those contents were helping to feed the “bad wolf” in people’s minds. That was the first idea that I had to create a different media.

One night, in 2006, I dreamed of a name: Peace Correspondent. For me it was a kind of revelation, because I wanted to be a war correspondent when I started my journalistic career… for that reason, that dream was in some way, like finding the last piece of a puzzle, searched for a long time inside of my soul, and enclosed by my own story and experiences.

Now that dream is a reality that is growing up since it was born in March of this year… exactly 6 years ago from that March of 2003, when I was trying to run away from violence, and when the war voices silenced for a while, the peace desires of the entire world.

After all those "gifts from life" I have been receiving, now I think it is my turn, to offer my own gift to life, because, at the end of the day, my own peace is all that I have to give: mine is a peaceful journalistic piece for the world's puzzle, and to feed “the good wolf” of our minds.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.

Comments 6

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Nusrat Ara
Aug 03, 2009
Aug 03, 2009

A very good story indeed. you are abrave and courageous woman. It takes so much of time and strength to change oneself, to steer in some direction. Well u have done it.

Lots of Love

Cristina Zesatti
Aug 08, 2009
Aug 08, 2009

We never stop the life lessons ... but something it is true: now I know the direction, and believe it or not, yet (often) I have to remind to myself that the little-big secret is to feed my "good wolf" ... even the bad wolf (which it is in fact our shadow) still being a fantastic and necessary master in our lives.

As I still alive, I must still learning ... and my hope is I could help not only myself in the road, but others as well ...

Inshallah dear !!! ;-) Peace. Xthina

Aug 04, 2009
Aug 04, 2009


thank you for your story-your life story. I was so moved by your perspective, insights and ability to see the big picture. I love love loved this entry. It was truthful. I have also fed the bad wolf many times in my life, I have fed anger and violence. I also have found that what we feed in life, becomes our perspectives on life. I've realized that no matter what happens, I don't want to feed the bad wolf, that I want to feed love, peace and hope. I want to see and live life with compassion, hope and kindness. Thank you so much for sharing your life experiences. I feel that my life is richer by hearing your strong, peaceful voice. I love your writing style also, it is lovely, inspiring and eloquent.

Keep up the good fight sister! I guess I should say keep up the peaceful walk! You are powerful!

in thought and deed, Jody

Cristina Zesatti
Aug 08, 2009
Aug 08, 2009

Once you decide to feed the "good wolf" in your mind and in your heart, you are walking in the right direction ;-)

The "bad wolf" is always present ... for me, it is indeed a perfect master, who teachs you to make the difference, to make choices, to fight and become a warrior ... conflict is our human condition, it is up to you to transform that conflict in growing

All of us we need the dark, to see the light inside.... :-) dont you think so ?!

Thanks for your compliments, but most of all, thanks for your own personal "good fight" ... Love. Xthina

Maria de Chirikof
Aug 08, 2009
Aug 08, 2009

It is great to be reminded to feed our 'good wolf' since our thoughts can take us down dark roads if we forget to check ourselves and our direction in life!

thanks for such an interesting article and I look forward to hearing more of your story!


Cristina Zesatti
Aug 08, 2009
Aug 08, 2009

The big power of this little tale that my father gave me is precisely that: to remind us that we have the secret of difference inside us.

I have learned that “everything” in our lives have some sense … even those events that we judge as horrible.

You can not avoid difficulties … that is not our choice, because to have them it is part of life… but to feel grieve for yourself it is indeed your choice … and we can avoit to feel it.

After his accident, my father also used to say that: “big obstacles in your life, means that god has a big confidence in you, because he would never send you something that you could not tolerate" ... now I understand that it is true: everything in your life happen for some reason, and it is our duty to discover "why", and what are we going to do with that events.

Keep walking dear Maria ... you are a brave woman ... I know it very well !! in Peace ... with Love. Xthina " )