Following a resurgence of political violence in Colombia, Martha Llano reflects on a path toward peace.
“We must make changes from deep within; we must find the peace that no agreement can give us.”
We are in a historic moment. I watch as my country is on the verge of collapse, and for the first time in 53 years, I have considered leaving Colombia behind. The thought makes me choke, and I can hardly catch my breath. How ironic that at a time when air and oxygen is what we need most, when breath has become a luxury due to the pandemic, I can barely breathe as I watch my country bleed.
Right now, in the streets, in the countryside, in the jungle, Colombians are torn between life and death, fighting for a dignified life. This dignified life is our right, and it is the duty of the state to provide it. And yet, it is elusive for so many.
My homeland is a country of diversity amongst the landscape, amongst our people. We are a country of possibilities. A country of options. A country where kind and good people live, smiling and happy even in the midst of everything we have lived through: We have survived years of conflict, of violence, of killings. Five years ago, we thought the violence would stop, that the Peace Accord of 2016 would bring an end to pain—but the pain has only taken new forms.
We are a country still in the midst of deception and abuse: those in positions of power are still learning, and they are not learning from the best. They are gaining knowledge from those who have abused people in their own countries. We have simply traded one corrupt system for another. We know now that our political leaders do not have pure hearts to give us what we really want: Peace.
We have had enough. If we resist, we are all together capable of achieving the profound changes we require to be a great country. A great nation.
As I write, my heart beats slowly and then speeds up. I am thinking of the great moments we have witnessed on this piece of land. In recent history, we have resisted and we have prevailed. We are still tired from what we have lived through in years past, even as Colombia is again living through a civil war.
We are adrift; we are killing ourselves to find a path forward, and we cannot even agree on which way is right. We must understand that all Colombians do not hold the same opinions, and that this conflict goes beyond the left or the right.
The majority of us do not know the deep roots of Colombia’s conflict. We thought it was one thing, but it goes deeper than the current conflict. At its core, we suffer the consequences of Spanish conquest. We suffer from hundreds of years of colonialism; hundreds of years of thinking ourselves to be inferior, less… but we are not less than anyone: We are equal. We are all equal.
I try to drown the crying in my heart, but it is impossible. There is a thorn in it, and I slowly bleed to death as I know my country is bleeding to death. We have seen so much suffering, so much blood, we have seen the most heartbreaking images one can imagine.
Now is the time to listen to each other. To understand each other’s needs. We are Colombians: we are not our skin colors or our labels. We are our stories and our paths; our experiences. Each of us desires equality; health; employment; education. These are the bare minimum requirements for human beings to live.
The violent history of Colombia is the history of humanity itself. This violence, this pain is playing out across the world in different contexts. Our stories today are of pain but it also seems that they are necessary to move out of the collective lethargy in which the vast majority of us live. We are imperfect and while we evolve the price is high.
Now is the time to defy ego and to look into each other’s eyes; to understand that we are one. We must forget bureaucracy, forget politics. We must listen to our neighbors; to our sons; our daughters; our neighbors. We must listen to the ones we do not know and those we do not recognize. We must see beyond what we are used to seeing.
No war has brought peace. No treaty can give us that elusive serenity. We must make changes from deep within; we must find the peace that no agreement can give us. We must see each other as brothers and sisters again—as one.
This story was published as part of World Pulse's Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could receive added visibility, or even be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.