Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Female Guerrillas of FARC

There is talk and much written about the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - almost always slanderous - and little about the guerrilla. Most Europeans are unaware that thousands of women are fighting in 60 Fronts in which FARC is fighting in that country. I met many in 2001, lived for weeks in an Amazonian camp of the revolutionary organization. How will I convey in short space of a chronicle, which for me was my contact with these new types of guerrillas?

"Love is the only thing that grows as it is spread"
FLAVIO PEREIRA


" No woman is born a prostitute. But many are born to fight! " (MMM)


GUERRILLAS OF FARC


There is talk and much written about the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - almost always slanderous - and little about the guerrilla. Most Europeans are unaware that thousands of women are fighting in the 60 Fronts in which FARC is fighting in that country. I met many in 2001, lived for weeks in an Amazonian camp of the revolutionary organization. How will I convey in the short space of a chronicle, which for me was my contact with these new types of guerrillas?


I found the girls there so different that it would diminish the effort to outline the emotional shock caused by the discovery of the FARC fighters. Common among them only is courage, the ability to adapt to living conditions and an enduring total confidence in the justice of the struggle of FARC and the final undated victory.


I was not camped with only one companion. Only Eliana was over 40. The majority had not reached the age of 25 years. The ethics of guerrilla war imposed rules that were observed. If two lovers wanted to establish a loving relationship they had to inform the commander. Infidelity was not tolerated by the code of the guerrillas. The pair was allowed to sleep in the same caleta, the road-bed, under a canopy of plastic in the vast forest, as was often their home. Regulations also prohibit the guerrillas, men or women, to have sex with guests of FARC.


But there was no moralism. If a couple decided to end their relationship it was necessary to inform the commander of this decision. The gesture accomplished the separation.


Women held the same jobs as men, from military training to the opening the latrines. Equal rights, similar tasks.


Daily life in the camps did not allow the privacy that today we are used to in everyday life. In the jungle, infested by transmitters of dangerous diseases, the daily bath is essential for protection of health. Women were washing in the river alongside the men in an atmosphere of camaraderie and respect that impressed me. The standards of modesty, such as we know them, could not work there. But never, not in looks or in words I never witnessed anyone with a visible chauvinistic behavior.


Those, such as they, had different social origins. Some had come from great cities, others of the llanos or from the hot valleys, others still from the cold lands of the Chain of mountains. Social origins were more visible in dialog of than in behavior, because girls of peasant families had acquired a solid ideological training.


To my surprise almost all of them were pretty.


In the Classroom - the place where in the evening the group of guerrillas met to attend lectures and to debate the subject with the invited "professor" - I had the opportunity to talk more at length with some he barely knew, like Adriana and Jenny.


An army of heroes


My work demanded very frequent contacts with four: Gloria, Eliana, Yurleni and Isabel.


Gloria was the secretary without title of commander Raul Reyes. From small middle class origin, she had acquired an unusually broad Marxist training. She was the person responsible for the computers and the radio transmission services, installed in an "office" that was differentiated from caletas only by their larger dimension. They were sending encoded messages and were deciphering the ones received. Their intimacy with the world of computer science was to me as an inexperienced apprentice.


She was very beautiful and neither had the uniform affected her femininity. It was during the slow journey to El Caguan, through an unpredictable road breaking through the jungles of the region - she drove heavy cars in her past as a professional and knew that counted with me. Enough for me to glimpse at her as a character of a novel who was radiating an intense joy of living.


In Eliana I found a revolutionary of another kind. The person responsible for management, she occupied herself with zeal for everything that is related to the supply of the camp. Her beauty was not physical. By middle age, strengthened, brusque in movements, she had reached the level of sub commander and her combatant's curriculum was dispersing doubts about the merits of the guerrilla. It was a few words, but at the wheel of a truck, she responded with speed and security to the questions that I formulated on the history of FARC and the organization of the camp.


Yurleni, the ranchera, projected the image of a young uninhibited, talkative peasant, moving with spontaneity. She was spending the day in the kitchen preparing meals for the guests. When we appreciated a hunting plate or a Colombian specialty she reacted so effusively that she even informed her chattering parrot of the fact perched in a shrub, beside a bin of water, in the yard where hens and the quail rambled, mascot of the guerrillas. Yurleni had a companion, John, and she was said to be happier than some day could imagine. The girl, had an obsession: to be a soldier. But she ended up in FARC when she realized that it was a lie that they calculated about them and that the guerrilla war was, this yes, an army of heroes, as no other existed.


In Isabel, the historian, I discovered is the romantic one. She concentrated on ideology in the university, that she pushed for FARC. She was in the threshold of a life of comforts, already with a master's degree and working in an international organization that was guaranteeing a monthly salary of almost 2000 dollars when....


She hesitated while arriving there and I was interrupted, trying to get down to the roots of the option that had made her change course.


- The reflection time was brief - she answered - I felt an increasing mourning for the type of life that was opening for me. She did not want to be ground by the system. The appeal was irresistible. Helped by friends, I came to stop at FARC, which I admired without knowing them...


Stirred Admiration


Isabel maintained long discussions with me. Ideological subjects fascinated her and found in me an interlocutor. After one year, she still felt herself a beginner. She fulfilled all her tasks exemplarily, I verified that she shot very well, but the unreliability tormented her.


Isabel's beauty was attracting attention for her gentleness. She had very white skin, a pair of enormous, bright eyes and a body where everything seemed defined in form and proportion. The combination appeared unreal.
One day I asked her since, being so beautiful, she had no companion.


It took time to answer:


- You know, this makes me suffer. But not for what you might think. Some comrades, already had asked me why I refused them. They think that it is a class attitude, but the reason is another one. I have a very great idea of love and still I did not find somebody that opens me to love...
Of course Gloria, Eliana, Jenny, Adriana, Yurleni, Isabel were alias names. I am unaware of their real names.


At FARC headquarters, in San Vicente del Caguan, I knew another guerrilla, Nora, of whom I preserve, clear, in memory of someone who appeared to me the as the symbol of the women of the FARC.


She was then in the relative legality of age and therefore I published the picture of her in a news article. A friend had fallen in combat a short while before.


Nora attended to the reception of all the foreigners who arrived at the Demilitarized Zone. There many journalists appeared who were more intent for interviews with the outstanding leaders of FARC, including Manuel Marulanda, the legendary Shot Fijo whose death had been announced twenty times by successive governments. The task was difficult, but Nora resolved the most delicate problems. The voice and the sweetness of the guerrilla disarmed the protest, when the visitors did not get what they intended. She combined a moving gentleness with the firmness of a veteran combatant.


She closed herself when my questions happened on her inner world. She never spoke to me of her lost companion, but the word sadness went up in my memory when listening to her. On the day in which I said goodbye I gave her a pair of boots and a lantern. Indispensable in the forest, they would not have more usefulness for me.


- They can be useful for some comrade? I commented almost ashamed.


Nora hugged me, without a word, and her gracias compañero came accompanied by the only smile that I saw sketched on her those days.


Today, when I read or listen to slanders about FARC, my thoughts travel to the jungles and mountains of Columbia. In the whirlwind of images that involve me, it is not without impassioned admiration that I am moved and again see the guerrillas that I knew there. Those women appear to me as the symbol of confidence in the revolutionary transformation of life.

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