Monday, October 27, 2008

Orange Sweatpants from a Secret Friend

September is the month of amor y amistad (love and friendship) In Colombia, punctuated on September 20th with el día de amor y amistad. That day is kind of like our Valentine’s Day in the States (which is not celebrated here), except that, as far as I understand, there’s an equal (or perhaps near-equal) focus on amistad as well as amor. Or maybe I just think that because I didn’t have an amor here to celebrate with. ;)

One thing that those of us without amores get to participate in is Amigos Secretos (Secret Friends), a game kind of like Secret Santa in the States: all the women who are playing pick out of a hat the name of a man who is playing, and that man is then the woman’s amigo secreto. The men do the same in order to pick their amiga secreta. Throughout the month (or more, in our case), one is supposed to gift one’s amigo secreto with little packages of dulces (sweets). The game culminates in the descubrimiento (discovery) in which everyone gathers and tries to guess who their amigo secreto is, and then the no-longer-secret amigo gives the final, big gift, which is often clothing, like a nice shirt or a pair of jeans. Each person gets a couple of chances to guess, but for those who don’t guess correctly, there is a penetencia (penance) to pay – literally. Penetencias range from singing a silly song, dancing with a cup of water balanced in each hand, tying a pencil with string to your back belt loop and trying to place it into a bottle, and other silly and embarrassing craziness in front of everyone. Often (or at least here in the Community), there’s a party/dance afterwards, which of course lasts until all hours of the night.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Will Walk for Peace

I recently returned from 6 days of hiking through piles of mud and up mountains, accompanying a pilgrimage of almost 200 Peace Community members, members of Tamera, an intentional community in Portugal, representatives of various indigenous communities around Colombia, and other friends and supporters of the Peace Community from various regions and countries. It was, needless to say, an adventure.

The Peace Community and Tamera organized this pilgrimage, as it was called, in order to visit and honor different sites pertaining to the Peace Community that are significant both historically and currently, as well as to demonstrate the strong presence and support of internationals for the Community. Over the six days my teammate Julia and I accompanied the participants as they prayed and sang near the headquarters of the 17th Brigade (the army unit that operates in this area and that has participated in many of the deaths of Community members); hiked eleven hours to Mulatos, the site of the 2005 massacre I described in a recent post (normally, the hike takes 4-5 hours, but with that many people, many of whom are unaccustomed to walking in these conditions, it took waaay longer); hiked to La Esperanza, another area where many community members used to live and are just now returning to after having been displaced for several years; swam in the rapids of a river that traverses the region; and hiked back to La Union (where FOR has our house) to dance the night away.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Action Alert: No guns for army commander implicated in death squads

Send a fax to Congress to put a hold on military material

In my last post I described US funding of the Colombian military, and expressed frustration that the State Department had certified the next round of funding. It seems some in Congress may have a bit of sense, because it is considering withholding $72 million of the $180 million certified by the State Department, because of cases like the one below. Continue reading for more info, and take action!

A witness testified that Colombian Army commander General Mario Montoya delivered weapons to a paramilitary death squad when he was a commander in Medellín, and the Colombian attorney general has opened an investigation into the charges, the Washington Post revealed on September 17.

"Gen. Mario Montoya has for years been a trusted caretaker of the sizable aid package Washington provides Colombia's army," the Post noted. Yet US officials have brushed off this and previous reports of the general's collaboration with death squads, saying, "Our experience with Montoya is a good one. He is a great field commander." When similar reports, based on a CIA document, surfaced last year, the State Department simply said it couldn't verify them. But Colombian prosecutors said the witness in this case has "a high degree of credibility."