Today is Colombia’s national day – 20 July – celebrating Independence from the Spanish. It’s a national Bank Holiday. All around the city, people have put flags up on their homes, there are streets set aside for parties and traders have put up stalls filled with all sorts of food being prepared and cooked on the street. A day for celebration; a day filled with music, hustle and bustle; a day of fun.
But in Puente Nayero tonight there will be a different kind of gathering. What should be a ‘fiesta’ – a day of celebration – has turned into a day of mourning. One of their own, Cristian Aragon, together with his friend Angel Mina, were murdered; they were both just 17.
The whole Aragon family had received many threats from the criminal gangs (former paramilitary) because they had refused to give in when the gangs wanted to ‘recruit’ their children. About a year ago the family moved out of the area because it got too much. But a month ago they decided to return and moved back into their home which is within the Humanitarian Space. However, the ongoing threats made them prisoners in their own home; they were afraid to go out and certainly would not leave the safety of the Humanitarian Space. Cristian’s parents, Doris and Ezekiel, had tried to drum home the importance of staying thin the ‘Space’, but a boy of 17 doesn’t want to listen to his parents’ advice; he just wants to do his own thing and go out with his mates.
Cristian and Angel were murdered just a few yards away from the Humanitarian Space of Puente Nayero, where police and military are stationed. They were killed by well-known gang members and a girl who was with them, was also injured.
So tonight, instead of celebrating independence, the family, friends and neighbours of Doris, Ezekiel, Cristian and Angel will be holding a wake. It’s not fair; it’s not just; it’s sad; it’s outrageous; it’s unbelievable; it’s heart-breaking. Words are failing me, but one thing I know – this is not a country that should be celebrating independence, freedom and democracy!!