Colombia and Guatemala Trip

In May, 2005 Peaceful Tomorrows members Patricio Grehan and Sue Rosenblum traveled to sites in Colombia and Guatemala in support of the Spanish-language edition of the Peaceful Tomorrows book, making new connections with NGOs and individuals affected by terrorism, violence and war. These diaries were filed during and after their trips.

From Patricio Grehan, May 16, 2005

I write to you leaving Medellín and on way to Guatemala. The last days have been very fruitful here. We have benefited from Juan Gutierrez’ knowledge of the peace organizations of Colombia and the realities of this complex country. Also, the relationships made with the organizations of Colombia and the victims have been rich and promising. We have made person to person contacts with the victims. (When it arrives at my house, I will also be able to send photos that I took of various moments of the trip.)

On Thursday, May 12, we had a first encounter with victims in Commune 8 of Medellín, a poor district in slopes of the city, which has been marked by violence from guerrilla groups (the CRAF) as well as from paramilitary groups, the drug traffickers, and the army. Here the violence has several origins, because it is a conflict that has been armed behind the scenes, has been occurring  over many years and has several actors: the guerrilla detachments (fundamentally two, the CRAF and ELN); paramilitary, the organizations armed with economic support from cattle dealers and other sectors like the drug trafficking, that were born with the objective to exile the guerrillas; the army of the state, that in many cases has worked together with the paramilitary forces causing great damage in the civil populace;  and the drug traffickers.

This first encounter with the families on Thursday, organized by a support organization of the victims of the conflict of the Alcaidía de Medellín,  was very touching. I began presenting what happened on September 11th to the members of Peaceful Tomorrows as well as what happened to my brother Pedro.

Like many Latin Americans, he traveled in 1997 to the USA with his wife, Victory,  and his three small children, looking for what our country, Argentina, could not offer him: work, security and a future for his children. His wife never was comfortable there, and in February of 2000, they separated. After a time of goings and comings, by the end of August of 2001, Victory and the children traveled again to New York. For Pedro, they were three weeks of happiness and reconstruction of his dreams.

On 8:47 in the morning of September 11, my brother Ignacio called by telephone to warn me that he was watching CNN and “an airplane had hit the Towers.” There we began to live that “passion”: to contemplate the scene, live and direct, as Pedro died. The story of my experience as a victim resonated with all those who were present, mainly with and between the victims of the violence of 8 Commune, who felt a great empathy and communion. We felt close together, very much like brothers. The pain had opened our eyes to each other through our tears and it had also allowed us to connect on a “gut level,” where our mutual human condition is felt more deeply.

There a deep listening began. Very simple people, greater in numbers and  with many mothers present, began to relate their own experience of pain. Liliana, of the Municipality of San Luis, located three hours from Medellín, within the region of Antioquia, lost her husband into the hands of the paramilitaries in his town of origin, and was “displaced” with her children to the city. There, besides to lose her house, a son was lost into the hands of the drug traffickers. Her history is the history of pain felt by very many Colombians. She said to us, resigned… “we have gotten used to coexisting with the violence.”

One by one, the mothers shared their pain and their desire to heal. A very young girl, mother of 4 children, Gloria, told us about the loss us of her husband, who they killed in Commune 8 because he repaired motorcycles. He fixed motorcycles of all those who asked him, without being able to choose his clients: whether paramilitary guerrillas or those of the army and the members of bands of the drug traffickers. She has become very depressed. Other companions invited her to participate in the clinics of social psychology there, specially created to assist in the mourning process and mental health of the affected people.

In the evening, we were with several NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) who work with the victims. We were hosted by “Conciudadanía”, an NGO that does very important work in the countryside. The meeting was presided over by Mauricio Cadavid, president of the Federation of NGOs de Antioquia, a coalition of 81 organizations. He was our host in Medellín, and we were very thankful. In this important encounter, besides sharing the PT experience, we listened to the great interest of the NGOs of Medellín and the department of Antioquia, to deepen their relationship with PT so that, together, we can recreate society to show the face of the victims, and call attention to alternatives to violence. Also, we became aware of the “wisdom of the pain” that comes on a “gut level” from the victims– and how having this knowledge contributes to the ability of the victims to construct a better, more just world.

They bought 30 copies of “Manana en Paz” (the Peaceful Tomorrows book), and would like to continue their relationship with Peaceful Tomorrows.  In this regard, I believe that we have a job remaining: how to consolidate and to continue a permanent relationship with these organizations who represent the victims, and have developed know-how on the matter, that can be very useful for PT and other organizations of the world.

On the morning of Friday, May 13, we had one more formal presentation of the book “Manana en Paz”. One person in the audience represented IDEA (Institute for the Development of Antioquia) in downtown Medellín. Organizations of victims, NGOs and several important mass media, from Medellín as well as national (the Time, the Colombian, local TV channels, radios). Juan and I both spoke. Juan talked about to the relationship of PT with the victims of M-11(in Madrid). I, divided my remarks to include my personal experience and my involvement with PT, and talked about our organization, our mission and objectives. We both made reference to the book and to the experiences that motivated it.

In the evening, we traveled 50 kms out of the city, in the locality of Marinilla, where we participated in a Meeting of the Committees of Reconciliation. These committees are policemen, acting in each community, along with the groups LOVE (Association of Women of the Antiochian East). These groups promote a very interesting process, enabling Promoters of Life and Mental Health (PROVISAME), where a promoter leads a group of 15 women who have been victims of violence and have suffered some loss. At this moment it has 70 groups with 15 in each one (1000 women in the groups, all victims of the war) in the Antiochian East. In these groups, called “Hugs,” the women are invited to share their experiences in common with others, and by doing so, they are improving mental health and recovering interest in a more complete life. There I had one long conversation with Ana Ligia, a poetess, a modest person, who promotes the group. She lived in a very remote community, seven hours from Medellín. Her husband, years ago, had to move because of threats from the paramilitaries. That led to the separation of the pair. Later, with her four children, she promoted the group in her community, with very many people responding. Finally, she was threatened with death by paramilitary groups and was removed from there by the Municipality with which she worked. She is now in a Commune of Medellín, and the pain has yet to leave.

Saturday, we participated in the I Forum of Reconciliation of the Antiochian East. Two hundred people of the 23 municipalities of the East participated. One was a congressman, explaining the government’s interest in promoting truth and justice. There we showed and talked about the Peaceful Tomorrows book. A strong interest arose to continue a relationship between Peaceful Tomorrows  and the organizations of victims and who work with the victims in Medellín. The proposals that arose there for the work with the victims included – to really become conscious from the process – to seek justice and the repair that results from it – the necessity of working with the armed groups that will be demobilized, and the communities to which they will return. (The people who are been in the paramilitaries will lay down their arms and will return to their communities)- to fortify and to extend the reconciliation committees.

We participated in this forum all the day and finished with beautiful sharing with our local hosts: Mauricio Cadavid, of the Federation of NGOs of Medellín, and Alonso Cardona, Executive Director of ConCiudadanía. Both organizations are looking forward to continuing and deepening their bond with Peaceful Tomorrows.

On Sunday 15 I traveled to Guatemala and was transferred to one of the zones marked by the conflict, in Santa Maria de Chiquimula, four hours by bus from Guatemala City. I shared a beautiful experience with the people of the town.   I am these days lodged in a parish in the town of  Kiché, in the zone has undergone very many the massacres of the military dictatorship of Montt Rivers, in the early 1980s. This is what I have to share so far. I will send more to you! A great hug, Patricio.

For part 2 featuring Sue Rosenblum’s diary, visit:

For part 3 featuring more from Patricio Grehan, visit:


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