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Colombia: He Was Just a Farmer Who Liked to Work

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We thought you should hear this story from Lisa Bonds, with our partner Lutheran World Relief in Colombia.  See LWR’s blog on Colombia and other topics by clicking here.

“I joined my Lutheran World Relief colleagues and Rosario Montoya, the Director of Fundacion Infancia Feliz, in a visit to the ‘Finca la Alemania,’ the German farm… As we drove to the farm, Rosario briefed us on the farm's history and the people who had recently returned to the farm after having been displaced by one of the most feared paramilitary leaders, called ‘the Chain,’ in the state of Cordoba…

"He was just a farmer that liked to work"Like many other paramilitary leaders, the Chain used the farm as a place to torture and kill people who tried to resist or who were wrongfully accused of many different things. Rosario cried as she told us that the community had recently found yet another mass grave on the German farm.

LWR and Fundacion Infancia Feliz are working with this community to get legal title to their land and to improve their agricultural production. We heard many stories of excitement at being back on the farm, of how they felt whole again now that they were working the soil, and, of course, many stories of the violence they suffered at the hands of the paramilitaries. One story in particular made the group fall silent, the story Albertina Bahena told about her father and his presumed death at the hands of the paramilitaries.

As you read her story, imagine her standing underneath a large mango tree, surrounded by other farmers from her community. Imagine a strong, clear voice coming from a very petite woman. Imagine her insistence that she tell this difficult story and the many times she had to stop to let the tears flow. Imagine a woman of incredible strength ensuring that her father's memory lives on.”

Albertina Bahena's story:

“When I talk about my father I cry a lot. My dad, he was disappeared.

My dad lived with my mom on this farm. On a Tuesday he sent my mom to visit her mother a short distance away. They took him on Thursday of that same week. My mom has never gotten over being gone when they took him. She cries a lot and is very sad that she didn't get to say goodbye to him.

When they took him, they stripped him of all of his clothes except his underwear. They tied him up and carried him around so that people would see him tied up. I can't stand that so many people saw him humiliated like that. He was a very proud man. Everyone saw him in such a bad way. They dragged him around like an animal.

They took him into the farm house and tortured him for hours. Then they paraded him around again — this time whipping him with wire and telling everyone that if they tried to help him — they would die the same, tortured death he faced.

We never saw him again. My brother and my uncle went to look for him. After a few days, the paramilitaries captured them and told him to stop looking for him. They said that if my brother and uncle looked for him or asked others about him, the same thing that happened to my dad would happen to them and everyone else in the family they could find.

We still haven't found him.

They took everything of his. We have nothing left of him — no photo, no shirt — nothing.

He was a really good man and I know that his friends standing here with me would say that about him.

When my dad died, I thought that I had lost everything. My husband kept telling me, ‘No. You haven't, you must keep going.’ Now my husband and I care for my four younger siblings and our own children. I am not ready to move back to the farm yet. I ride my bicycle for two hours each day to get to the farm so I can work in these fields. At the end of the day, I ride my bicycle for two hours to get home and care for my family.

Please remember my father. Take his story back with you. He was a really good man and I know that his friends standing here with me would say that about him.

He was just a farmer that liked to work.

I miss him so much.”

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