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January 30, 2006
We heard the story of this town’s struggle with the army and the killings that took place. We heard the story of Doña Chonita, of her husband’s brutal, unjust murder by the military. We visited the memorial to murdered priest Father Stan Rother in the cathedral. We walked over the village- turned-mass grave due to the October 2005 mudslide. So much pain and so much suffering. How does a community keep going? Doña Chonita’s story helped give a perspective as to what this struggle is like – how difficult it is to even stay alive.
As I have been here and have heard these stories, I have struggled to understand what my place is here. Yes, I am here to learn about the history and these stories, but then I am ultimately no more than a tourist. I felt this vividly when we were walking over the area of the mudslide, taking pictures of the devastation. I felt I was betraying sacred ground by just being there. I struggled with the conflict of wanting to be reverent in a place of more than 1000 deaths, but wanting to take pictures so that I can pass on these stories to others. We do need to see first hand where these tragedies took place, why they happened, how they affected the people and how it will change the future. But I hope I can remain a sensitive presence.
So while writing at home last night I became overwhelmed with the sadness of it all. I was interrupted by a call from downstairs to come to dinner. It was just Rosa and I. She had a wonderful dinner prepared for me, but better yet, she just sat and talked to me while I ate. She asked how our trip had been and I told her it was good but we heard many sad stories of the violence and the mudslide. She agreed there had been much suffering there. She went on to describe the 1996 earthquake here and how she felt the shaking at 3 am while she was sleeping. She was holding Angelica who was 6 at the time. You don’t have to look far to find lives that have been affected by suffering. I continue to figure out how to deal with all that I am learning and all the emotions I am experiencing.