Indigenous Colombian women stand up to violence
We Women Warriors is being presented at the DocuWeeks 2012 Screenings in NY August 10-16, and LA August 24-30.
By ARTURO CONDE
Philosophers have long struggled to find an explanation for some of life’s most complicated problems. But sometimes, the most profound truths can only be reached through the experience of being a mother.
“With all due respect to the male governors,” says Flor Ilva Trochez, in Nicole Karsin’s 2012 documentary We Women Warriors, “we women governors can also govern well. We have experience from rearing our families, raising our children.”
Trochez and two other indigenous woman leaders in the film—Doris Puchana and Ludis Rodríguez—are the strong-willed survivors of a decades-long war between Colombian guerrillas, paramilitaries, and government forces that threatens the extinction of a third of the country’s 102 native groups.
Karsin conveys the pain and suffering of these communities through the testimonies of the protagonists. Trochez recalls how her grandfather was caught and killed by an armed group named Los pájaros. “They chopped him up like an onion and left him in pieces,” she says on film. Similarly, Rodríguez describes how her husband was lined up with other detainees by the paramilitaries. A masked man asked the captives “which one of you is ‘twisted,’ (meaning a guerrilla collaborator),” said Rodríguez, and then he pointed a gun at her husband, who was wearing an orange shirt, and shot him randomly.
Murder often endures more hate. In one of the saddest moments of the film, Rodríguez’s sister recalls a disheartening conversation between her young son and a cousin. Her son said that he wanted to enlist with the rebels to fight against the paramilitaries who killed his dad. The boy’s cousin responded that he wanted to join the opposite side because the rebels had killed his father. When they asked each other what they would do if their paths crossed in battle, the boys answered, “We’ll kill each other.”
According to the film, over five million people have been displaced because of the ongoing violence in Colombia. But in spite of the hatred that fuels the intergenerational cycle of violence, viewers will also find an uplifting message in We Women Warriors. “When one suffers,” Puchana says, “one feels the suffering of others.” And it is this empathy that comes from a deep sense of maternal compassion that enables the three women leaders to help bring together indigenous communities that have otherwise been alienated.
Latino viewers can also feel a certain kinship with these indigenous peoples because in many ways the Colombian natives are like immigrants who, underrepresented by their government and institutions, have had to organize themselves to defend their culture and history, and reclaim the rights to their homeland. One of the tribal songs on the soundtrack of the film, Child of Cauca, will remind Latinos of the everyday heroes in their communities who fought and fight to assert their rights:
“I am a child of Cauca, carrying Páez blood. Like those who have struggled, since the conquest until now. We live because we fight against the invading power. We will continue to fight as long as the sun keeps rising.”
As the viewer sees the three women leaders come together in a multi-tribal march to defend their rights, their stories become intertwined like the fibers that are interwoven into indigenous bags and other clothing accessories throughout the film. Karsin not only uses the images of indigenous women weaving as a symbol for their solidarity, but also reminds viewers everywhere that democracy is a carefully spun fabric that binds everyone together. And only through a similar type of unity will communities be able to empower themselves.
We Women Warriors is being presented at the DocuWeeks 2012 Screenings in New York from August 10-16, and Los Angeles from August 24-30.
(Photos courtesy of Nicole Karsin)