In 2000, the community of Mapuján was terrorized by a paramilitary group. This group had conducted murders and massacres in nearby villages, and they called this community into the center of the town to do the same to them. This community, largely made up of Afro-Colombian people lined up in the centro and listened to the armed leaders discuss what would be done to them. According to their story, they prayed, and angels spoke to them from the hills. In that very moment, the armed leader received a call that there would be no massacre, and that they were to leave the people alone. While their lives were spared, their land was confiscated, rich in minerals, oil, and potential gems.
Sixty-five families from this community were displaced. With some help from the government and local churches, they began to begin life in a new community, called "New Mapuján " They began working together, building a new reality away from their home.
"It is hard to tell this story because we would like to forget it. We are sometimes told to forget it. Some people say it never happened."
"Thirteen campesinos were killed in these surrounding areas on that one day in October. Their bodies were investigated by the authorities and then eaten by the dogs."
"We did not want to come together and talk about what had happened. We let our feelings come through the fabric and speak for themselves."
An MCC worker in this area was assigned to do trauma work with a group of women from this community. Using their local artisan skills and fabric supplied by MCC, they began to tell their stories through the handicraft of tapestries. These tapestries have gotten national attention and were recently on display in Bogota at a variety of art exhibits. The detailed work in them is incredible. They represent layers of pain and trauma, documenting the historic memory of African slaves coming into Colombia to work for wealthy colonists. The emotion in the artwork is some of the strongest I have ever experienced. Some of these have been sold to an art collector, and some saved by the community. One was donated back to MCC. Whatever happens to them, it is a clear reflection of the pain and suffering distilled in this community more than 10 years ago and their long process of healing and hope.
One of my dreams is to someday find a way for these to make it to the US/Mennonite museums for display along with dialogue about our role in this conflict.
You can read more about it here.
The following video tells their story. I would not recommend it for children.