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The relentless search of a father to find his son for 11 years – Other Cities – Colombia

The indigenous man with calloused hands in the Mayasquer reservation of the Pasto people cried as he touched the remains of his son, whom he had been looking for for 11 years since he disappeared, in the middle of the jungle cornered by the armed conflict.

I was 19 years old in 2012. Since then, the father was looking for him, crossing the border between Nariño and Ecuador. He and his family live in a humble home on the reservation, where he grows plantains, bananas, and other fruits.

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Mayasquer is located in the village of Tallambí in the Cumbal municipality of Nariño, where it is easier to reach when long trails are traveled, first passing through the territory of the neighboring country to return to Colombian soil. It is about nine hours on the way to the reservation from the head of Cumbal, due to the fact that the conditions of the roads in the region make it impossible to do so.

“My dream was that my son’s body would reach the village of Tallambí,” the indigenous man repeated to the members of the Unit for the Search for Persons Given Missing (UBPD) who, in coordination with the General Prosecutor of the Nation and the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, made the delivery of the body to the family effective.

Flowers and fruits, during the harmonization ceremony.


UBPD Communications

The farmer had been in that desperate search, unaware that his son had been murdered and whose remains were buried 147 kilometers from the reservation, in the Tumaco cemetery as one more unidentified person.

Because armed groups, including Farc dissidents, paramilitaries and the ELN have influence in the area, the father and family of the disappeared young man, as well as the UBPD, asked not to reveal their names.

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At least 287 corpses have been buried in the cemetery of the port of Nariño, as NN and for 35 years, between 1985 and 2020, according to data from the Internal Working Group for the Search, Identification and Surrender of Missing Persons (Grube), of the Prosecutor’s Office General and Legal Medicine.

It was Grube officials who managed to specify that the body of the young indigenous man from Tallambí was there, whose necropsy was later carried out by Forensic Medicine as part of the recovery process.

UBPD officials, in the delivery of the body.


UBPD Communications

According to the UBPD and the Prosecutor’s Office, a humanitarian and extrajudicial investigation was opened, while there were indications that pointed to the protection of the Pasto people, as the place of origin and where the family of the young indigenous man lives.

It was a process of months since last year that allowed to locate their relatives with genetic tests and thus promote full identification.

This humanitarian action relied on the contribution of information from the Corporación Humanitaria Reencuentros, who provided documents and essential data on the place and causes of death for the identification of the missing young man. Additionally, the Orlando Fals Borda Socio-Legal Collective provided support in the systematization and characterization of the cemetery in Tumaco.

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“In this dignified handover, different institutional actors converged, making all their technical capacity available to the families to fully investigate and identify this young man, who today has already been handed over to his family and his body disposed of in their territory,” said Lilibet Zamora, a servant of the territorial team of the UBPD, in Pasto.

“This means, not only for his family, but for the entire town, a way to clean up the territory and repair the pain caused by the disappearance of this and many other young people in southern Colombia,” the official noted.

Feelings of sadness and nostalgia, in this recovery process.


UBPD Communications

In this dignified delivery, different institutional actors converged and made all their technical capacity available to the families to fully investigate and identify this young man.

He also maintained that this was a dignified surrender as a step to alleviate, in part, the pain of a home that has always been a victim of the conflict that, like relatives, have reiterated that the young man was not a combatant.

“Thus, the UBPD bets on an articulated work between the institutions to guarantee the rights of the victims and repair the rights of the indigenous territory affected by the internal armed conflict in Colombia,” said Zamora.

Once the genetic results confirmed that it was the indigenous person of whom there had been no trace for a decade, the UBPD, the Prosecutor’s Office, Legal Medicine and the Cumbal mayor’s office went to the stage of managing the transfer of the remains with the protection of the Pasto people. , taking into account the risks due to the critical security landscape.

The nine hours of travel increased the anxiety to reach the desired destination to put an end to the tragedy of a humble family. And as the vehicles of the commission advanced, their occupants observed in the distance, the houses of the reservation, distant from each other and embedded in the top of a mountain.

The Rumichaca bridge, on the border between Ipiales and Ecuador.

Meanwhile, in the reservation they prepared the preparations for a ceremony, following the ancestral traditions of the pastures.

For this, the community arranged a place to put flowers and where, in addition, there were fruits, including bananas, oranges and pineapples. Religious syncretism was also evident, since in the background there was a crucifix.

Local leaders explained that it was an act of harmonization between life and death. The ceremony ended with the burial of the body in the Cumbal cemetery.

The return of the community member who has left a long time ago for us is peace building, because it is possible, in each struggle, it can be recovered, whoever it is.

“For us, the healing of the territory generates a lot of peace, a lot of joy because those who left returned to our territory and that generates peace for each of us. The return of a community member who has left a long time ago is for us building peace, because it can be done, in every struggle, it can be recovered, whoever it is,” said a leader of the Mayasquer reservation, who also did not give her name. For security.

According to the Orlando Fals Borda Socio-Legal Collective Corporation, the disappearances cannot be repeated and there they stressed that the intervention in cemeteries, such as that of tumacoIt is an act for memory and hope.

One of the trails that the Awá indigenous people walk, in Nariño.

“This begins as a clamor from many years ago, here the bodies were being lost because there has been no proper handling. There are people who have been buried like NN without giving them proper handling of the bodies”, they indicated in the corporation.

According to the entity, in Colombia more than 120,000 disappeared are estimated, while there are more than 27,000 bodies of unidentified people in the country’s cemeteries.

The Undersecretary of Peace and Human Rights of the Governorate of Nariño reported that it is necessary to provide psychosocial support for the mental health of relatives of the victims, such as the young indigenous man from Tallambí.


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