On January 21, 2010, at six in the morning, from Bogotá we took the plane to Tumaco, in the department of Nariño, in the south of Colombia, bordering Ecuador and the Pacific. Upon arrival, a heat-soaked drizzle fell on the shanties and waterlogged streets of this city made up of several islands at the mouth of the Mira River, with 170,000 inhabitants, mostly black. When we arrived at the La Sultana hotel, before opening the suitcase they handed us a statement issued by the paramilitary group called Águilas Negras that threatened death to all the organizations that “under the archaic subversive discourse of the defense of human rights” served as support. to the FARC and the FLN. The Doctors Without Borders organization, in which I was enrolled, was logically under that threat. On the other hand, we were also told that the city was full of FARC militiamen whose presence was felt, but not noticed. Violence was breathed like another element in the air between the bursts of vallenato music, the screams of peddlers and the exhaust of motorcycles.
On the outskirts of Tumaco, in a swampy territory reclaimed from mangroves, a conglomerate of stilt houses stood that kept wooden barracks standing in a state of extreme ruin on a black water sewer where 540 peasants displaced by the guerrillas or the paramilitaries. There, a 72-year-old woman named Flora Esmila told me: “I had a chocolate in Cali that gave me four harvests. It had bananas and oranges. She lived quietly, but one day they told me that in Chaguí de Cuaransangá they had killed my daughter. When I arrived it was already buried. It was because of the jealousy of a thug who wanted her to sleep with him and, when my daughter refused, he reported her to those in the mountains as a confidant of the military and one day those from the mountains came down to kill her, leaving her with four children. The husband is alive, but he did nothing out of fear. Those from the mountain told me: ‘Go, start trotting, and I’ll run away to Tumaco.’
At his side, Antonio Domingo, 30 years old, born in Buenaventura, confessed:
“The Black Eagles arrived in San José de Laturbe and killed a comrade who was a chainsaw operator and two days later he appeared floating in the river; They took others and for several days the river was flowing dead. They ordered the evacuation of the entire neighborhood with 300 families and they became strong there. I came to Tumaco with my wife and two children. We grew bananas, cassava, Chinese potatoes, mango, oranges and cocoa on land that I owned. There were coca fields around us, but we did not grow coca because we are Seventh-day Adventist Christians and the word of God says that we should use it due to what He has created and that we should not grow illicit things.”
The next day, leaving Tumaco behind, with the Doctors Without Borders team we boarded a boat to go up the Mira River, which flows down from Ecuador in the middle of the jungle. Piloting the boat was a young man without words, with a very sharp face, who was undoubtedly in the secret of our trip. The increasingly hermetic jungle was entering a pre-Columbian silence. Some coca crops could be seen lying on the high banks. Contrary to what happens in the novel Heart of Darkness, by Conrad, where there is a character called Kurtz, lord of solitude who rules everything, who everyone talks about and no one has seen, in this case, upon arriving at the village of Azúcar, after a long hour of sailing, before Upon disembarking, we were able to see a man sitting on a terrace who, without a doubt, was waiting for us, since he greeted us with his arms. Wearing Pantanera boots and with the legs of his tracksuit tucked into them, this man was Dagoberto Cañón himself, a middle-aged, plump man. He received us with great cordiality like a godfather, surrounded by children, and an assistant who attended to Chepe, very solicitous, and after the formal greetings he offered us a red coffee and began to talk. He told us: “Ever since you left the La Sultana hotel until here, eyes have been watching you. Now in the middle of the jungle we are under his gaze.” I still don’t know who that man really was who, apparently, had everything he wanted in that space and was on good terms with the FARC and the paramilitaries.
At the end of the trip, I returned the Doctors Without Borders vest, I took off the wellies that had walked through smelly swamps, streets full of misery, tin shanties, trails lost in the jungle, and I only remembered the heroism, the abandonment, the pain, fear and resistance of displaced beings, who suffered exile in their own country, but who had not stopped fighting to the point of exhaustion for their own dignity against an unfortunate fate.