By Laia Mataix Gómez
El Tigre, Colombia, Mar 4 (EFE).- Twenty-three years have passed since members of the far-right United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary raided El Tigre, a hamlet in southern Colombia’s Putumayo region, and brutally killed 29 men.
For the women who lost their sons and husbands in the violent raid, the memory is still vivid.
It was a Saturday morning when on January 9 of 1999, AUC paramilitaries entered the village and started burning houses, cars and motorcycles.
Moments later, they took the men of the village and loaded them into their pick-up trucks. It would be the last time the mothers would see their sons and wives their husbands.
The paramilitaries took the 29 men to the emblematic bridge of El Tigre where, one by one, they were stabbed in the chest and thrown into the river, alive, for their bodies to disappear.
VIOLENCE AND OCCUPATION
El Tigre had become the center of a conflict between right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas when armed guerrillas arrived in the village asking for food, accomodation and help.
Threatened with weapons, the villagers were forced to agree.
But when the paramilitaries arrived, they accused residents of El Tigre of supporting guerrilla groups, something they would be punished for for the next decade.
The massacre that killed the 29 men was just the beginning of the horror the community would have to endure.
Paramilitaries settled in the village for almost 10 years, taking over everything and everyone, especially the women.
“They would use weapons and intimidation that forced us women to put up with many things that have scarred us,” a member of Violetas de Paz, a women’s association in El Tigre, tells Efe.
Violetas de Paz has 62 members and was created in support of the women of El Tigre that were repeatedly raped and violated by members of the paramilitary.
“We were afraid and ashamed to tell people what happened to us because many times people think that it is us women who provoke these things,” a survivor tells Efe.
“We lived in constant fear,” the survivor added.
In the very same river where the men were killed, Violetas de Paz has organized a memorial for their husbands, sons and brothers.
The men’s names, flowers and candles sail down the river.
“We do this so that we never forget the past,” president of Violetas de Paz, Ruby Tejada Suárez, tells Efe.