Brasil de Fato’s Vivian Fernandes recently travelled through the province of Choco, one of the bases of the guerrilla group, ELN. In the first of a series of articles, she narrates the experience of first meeting the guerilla fighters, and provides insights into their lives.
Fearful of forgetting my own name, I chose Maria. Once the plane landed in Cali, in the department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia, that would be my name. Phones off. From there on, I would only have my own memory and a notebook to register everything.
Along with my new name, I had to memorize the new names of my comrades accompanying me on the trip. I repeated them in my head, obsessively, while I looked at their faces. I didn’t want to be the one who messed up the plan.
When we landed, a woman greeted us with a smile. She and the man with her introduced themselves. I was sure that she wasn’t Yaneth, just as I wasn’t Maria either. But her smile, along with her hug, created a bond. It felt like she was a family member, maybe my aunt.
In a white truck, we drove through the streets of Cali, in middle class and upper middle class neighborhoods. As we passed each neighborhood, Yaneth told us about the drinks and food of this region of Colombia.
After half an hour, Yaneth and the driver said goodbye, and another man took the wheel. This time, we were on a zig-zagging highway for several hours. Our bodies kept lurching due to the speed and I felt like we were flying but when I looked at the panel of the car, the needle of the speedometer did not move.