There is still life to celebrate!

Today is the 23rd of March 2022, that means the Peace Community of San Josè de Apartadò (Comunidad de Paz – CdP) celebrates its 25th birthday.

Since the break of dawn, the hymn of CdP is sounding through the speakers: preparations are in full swing, there are many guests to welcome, both national and international ones. I strongly feel the love from all the people who, in here, found an example of resistance, fight for freedom, respect, self-care and care for everybody – because, without the others, we are none.

In the previous days, as soon as I arrived, I was able to experience new activities, because in here everybody collaborates to reach a successful result, from the youngest to the eldest. I participated in all the projects, even the ones I would have avoided in Italy, as when people work together, tiredness gets divided and satisfaction multiplies.

Bustle never stops, smiles blossom on everybody’s faces, both the ones who got in touch with the Community since a long time and the ones who recently met the CdP. Many activities thrive, everyone interchanges their experience and contacts to make this celebration not only a symbolic moment, but the concrete starting point for prosperous collaborations among collectives and institutions. We can count on the priceless presence of representatives from displaced, indigenous and afro communities who live in the country: the exchange of strategies and practices to face global challenges is necessary to build together a new shape for a peaceful future.

To start the official celebration we take part in a march, while radios spread all CdP’s slogans, which were produced all along its troubled and proud history. But the most powerful sound, the tightest hug… I can feel them through the silence kept by all the participants to remember those who cannot physically be touched, but are still shining through the light of their spiritual presence. Suddenly, Father Javier Giraldo takes the floor and starts speaking about a massacre which was executed in the very place where he is standing. We all breathe resilience, pride, dignity, and still pain, a dull pain, and a concrete waiting for a Justice that has not been achieved yet.

The march stops in an other important place for the whole area, that is the cocoa marketing center, where a young girl declaims excerpts from the declaration of CdP’s establishment. I felt a deep emotion perceiving a seventeen years old girl’s consciousness, while she appeared to my eyes as an adult.

Multiple speeches and presentations follow. Among them, a lawyer, in charge of the investigation, tells us about one of the cruelest massacres experienced by the Community. He explains the different techniques used by the Colombian government to deny military offensive undertaken against CdP, stating that, according to the legal team, it would be possible to identify such actions as a genocide. I am really appalled by this report.
Next, Gloria Cuartas, who was Major of Apartadò County when the high-intensity conflict was spreading and who now is a Human Rights Defender, takes the floor. She describes the contemporary situation in the region, underlining the need for international and national support and solidarity.
Some of the Community’s members make a speech, expressing the splendor and the perversion belonging to Human Beings, with sharp clarity and easiness as an ancient wisdom which smells like wet earth and tastes like bitter cocoa. I can’t help feeling such an admiration by listening to these people, even elderly ones, who spent their life in the fields, mostly without access to education.

And then… we sing and we dance, because there is still life to celebrate, a future to build, goals to achieve. Several groups and solo artists perform, and their talent affects deeply, more deeply than a strike at the heart, because we sing about forced migrations and ancestral bonds, about sacrifices for love and love for sacrifices - when they set one free from chains, about farmer’s wisdom and mothers’ strength, about matriarchs who were able to save humanity and about men whose names are still unknown, but their legacies are alive.

In collaboration with a group of artists, some of the Community’s members stage a theater piece about the CdP’s timeline. That’s how we discover how many talents were hidden in such a small Community, that suddenly becomes huge in its greatness. It is hard to believe how they were able to manage, without a continuous professional support, such a brutal and cruel history, making it understandable also to those who didn’t experience raw violence. And actually, they were even able to make us laugh, because laughing can heal a bleeding soul. After all, isn't the ability to convey emotions art?

At the end of such an intense and full day, I ask myself how it is possible to feel at home in a place where I had never been before, but where there is space for everybody, food for everybody, a good word for everybody, time for everybody.

And I do believe I was granted a huge privilege for just being part of this.