In this last column of our special we will highlight a brave woman who has risked her life, paradoxically, in search of the so-longed-for peace: Soraya Bayuelo Castellar, founder and director of the Communications Collective of Los Montes de María Línea 21.
Born in Carmen de Bolívar, she studied communications at the Universidad Autónoma del Caribe in Barranquilla.
In an interview given a few years ago to the newspaper El Tiempo, she expressed that she is hurt by what is happening in the coastal region, which she loves so much, and cries out for a permanent presence of the State: the territory of the Montes de María.
Her community work for more than 24 years has crossed borders: “Everyone has taken flight. The dance of the vests left and with them the State to another place, as if nothing had happened here, and the aftermath remains, but the wounds must be healed,” she says.
What is the current situation like? Obviously it is not the same as during the war, but we are not at total peace either, because we need many things.
Things like what? For example, the Colombian state needs to know that the silencing of the guns, the demobilization of the FARC, and the signing of a peace agreement does not mean that everything is fine, because the war left many consequences for a dignified life.
What else? We need investment in social issues, in education, in culture, in roads, in the countryside, so that people really have an integral and transforming reparation, of all the rights violated in the conflict. The dialogue agenda with the FARC created expectations in conflict zones such as Montes de María and people were filled with hope.
What is the reality of the areas that were supposed to have regained tranquility? Unfortunately, they are being overrun by micro-trafficking and drug trafficking, especially the exits to the Golfo de Morrosquillo, which fuels the fear that the war will flare up again.
In 1994, she directed the house of culture of her town together with the philosopher Beatriz Ochoa, and founded the collective with the idea of creating a journalism project for the community. Soraya called it the ‘BBC’ (“bodas, bautizos y cumpleaños”) [tra. weddings, baptisms and birthdays] but from this idea a journalism school, a newscast and a community radio program were born.
On July 5, 1998, her brother Milton was murdered in Carmen de Bolívar by paramilitaries of the Bloque Central Bolívar, as he was passing by a store while five people were being gunned down.
On August 18, 2000, her 13-year-old niece Angélica Robayo Bayuelo was killed when a bomb set off by the 37th Front of the FARC exploded in front of a hardware store in the town square as she was passing by with two friends.
In 2003, Soraya and the Collective won the National Peace Prize for “their contribution to reconciliation and peaceful coexistence through a communication project that strengthens the social fabric of the region”.
Traducción del español: Catalina Oviedo Brugés