Encounters with Human Rights Defenders
Embera Eyabida Community Leader, Chocó Department
Around 1980, settlers began arriving in our territory, cutting trees in the jungle to make pastures and preventing us from circulating. The military, the police and the paramilitaries accused me of being with the guerrilla, and the guerrillas said that I was an informant for the paramilitaries or the military, whereas I simply tried to defend my people. These were very difficult years. Sometimes, I spent weeks in hiding enduring rain, mosquitoes and hunger. At night, listening to the sound of the wind, the trees, the river, is where I found strength. I thought: "If I have to face this persecution to defend our cause, then I am ready to fight no matter the consequence.” I made a decision: “Just as clear as I hear the birds and nights animals sing and roar, one day I will testify about what I endured for defending my community."
Portrait: Verónica Giraldo Canal, 2012.