Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | July 26, 2012

The Indigenous Leader and the Sergeant: warriors of peace

Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

It has taken me a full decade or more to understand the essence of Joan Didion’s words. I examine Colombia with the eyes of an outsider, of a foreigner who does not live in the country and is not directly affected by its violence, and I write this blog (and an upcoming book) with the intention of understanding.

In my writing, I’m drawn to non-fiction and history, and it has taken me more than a decade to understand much of history and current events occurred because of characters. In my writing, I am obsessed with why this happened because this character took this decision; this character chose this because this happened to her earlier in her life.

Last week’s clashes between indigenous and government soldiers brought this to mind.

The indigenous leader: Feliciano Valencia is 46 years old. He is a father of six children. He has worked as a coffee and cotton picker. Today, his most important work is as a spokesperson for his community. He believes peace can be made under President Santos, and has prayed for Santos during indian rituals.

The soldier: Sergeant Rodrigo García is 31 years old. He is single and lives with his mother in Neiva. He has been in the Colombian army for 13 years, and he prays before each battle. He believes in “God and the Nation.”

It was the image of a teary-eyed Sergeant García which moved Colombians last week. About 600 indigenous physically lifted and carried the sergeant downhill, away from a sacred native mountaintop which the army was guarding. The sergeant cried out of humiliation. Although he was armed, he later said he would never use an arm against civilians. The situation could have been very different last week if Sergeant García had fired his weapon.

Feliciano, the indigenous leader, said what occurred with the sergeant should have never happened. The outcome of the heated moments also could have turned bloody if indigenous leaders like Feliciano pointed their community towards violence.

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