The Humanitarian Space of Puente Nayero is the response of the Afro-Colombian people who live there to the violence that had pervaded their neighbourhood and homes. Over 300 families live in the main street and 2 parallel ‘bridge streets’ which are on land reclaimed from the sea using rubbish and debris.
Before April last year, they felt that there was no hope. The presence of the gangs (who have formed out of the paramilitary forces) brought fear on a daily basis; many of the residents were threatened, some were the victims of extortion in order to be able to continue running their small businesses, some just disappeared, some were tortured and killed within earshot of their neighbours who could do nothing about it. The aim of these gangs is to intimidate the residents to such an extent that they leave this prime land (more about that in a future blog).
Yesterday one man, Don Pedro, told me that when someone just died in the community, one child said “Where is the blood?” This child had not seen a natural death; children were so used to seeing violence and bloody deaths, that they didn’t know what a natural death was!
However, since the declaration of Puente Nayero as a Humanitarian Space, under the protection of precautionary measures of the Inter-American Courts for Human Rights, there has not been one death in the ‘Space’.
People feel like they can breathe again, they feel safe, there is a calm undertone in the community. They can go about their daily lives with a measure of security. The presence of the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace, and international accompaniers, gives this community protection. That is why I am so glad to be here; my presence gives them security too.
Hopefully, there will be no more blood shed in Puente Nayero and other communities will follow their lead too.