Edna Magaly Alaya
Cali (Valle del Cauca)

“Close your eyes, now, imagine being approached by a person who tells you that he is a victim of conflict and needs help. What are do you do?”

The question is thrown in the classroom of a university in Cali.

Replies, say that they have no idea, that they would take that person to the police, that they would guide them to an area where they could build a 'cambuche'. Someone even confesses in a low voice that he would be "crazy" and look the other way.

"Now, what is that victim like? What does he/she smell like? What do her feet look like?"...

He is poor, he is sad, he smells like sweat and his shoes are powdered, he answers in synthesis to the audience.

Edna Magaly Ayala Hernandez, 29, social communicator, National Queen of the Colonies in 2O10, smiling and calm, is the one who asks these questions. Thus begins her discussion.

Then she introduces herself and says: "I am a victim of the armed conflict: the FARC murdered my father, wounded my mother and displaced us from the village. I, like more than eight million people in this country, have experienced the consequences of war. The victims of the conflict are like all of you who are sitting there, people with homes, with dignity, with dreams, only that the violence forced them to postpone them".

Edna travels through Cali with her conversation "History of life, a victim devictimized", entering where the door opens: colleges, universities, institutes, spaces with social leaders and even the living room of a home. For her, talking about what happened to her family has become a therapy to help her heal her own wounds and, in passing, to sow in others the reflection on the uselessness of war and the magic of forgiveness.

But it was not always like this. To get to this point he went through pain and anger. Edna Magaly says that she is part of the third generation of displaced people from her family, which began with her grandmother Rosita, who fled from Rioblanco, Tolima, because of the presence of the 'chulavitas' or armed bands of conservative origin that existed in the first years of the so-called 'violence'.

Years later, in another Tolimense town called San Antonio, the daughter of Rosita settled down, who, due to the paradoxes of life, ended up married to a conservative. Edna Magaly is born of that love, who with narrowed eyes speaks of her beloved San Antonio as a "wonderful land that was sadly destroyed again and again in the middle of the conflict".

"The beds were not for sleeping at night, they were for hiding under them. The nights in my town permanently sounded like Christmas, only they were not pyrotechnic games but real explosions. I remember how hard it is to live the death of friends, of neighbors. You know, when you live in such a harsh environment, God gives you an incredible strength to not be defeated, "she says.

In the midst of this panorama, the conflict hits him a hard blow. One day, when she was 8 years old, she, her mother and her brother received the news that a person very similar to her dad was on a road in the middle of a pool of blood. The man, merchant and "in love with his cows, he sure did not manage to pay the vaccine with which the guerrillas harassed the families of the area and paid with his life for it".

The lesson of courage that Mrs Arabella, her mother, gave her at that moment, still tears . Following the road with two children, resisting leaving the town, was the work of his heroine, a school teacher.

"It was a very difficult time, in which shots of the town were lived. Sometimes my children were a little separated from me when that happened, but thank God we surpassed it, "says the lady.

The girl retraced her steps, was the school staff of San Antonio, the leader of the martial band and even student queen.

Then, in 2004, during a bazaar organized by her mother and the other teachers for the benefit of her school, while the people danced and had fun, the war came back to assault her. A guerrilla attack turned the party into chaos.

"Suddenly there were wounded on all sides, people lying on the floor, screams, blood. My mom gets hurt in one hand, you could see the ground through her palm, and it was scary. I do not know what was more horrible, if I was hurt or see her waiting for attention without it coming, being about to bleed, "says Edna Magaly.

There came the farewell to San Antonio. There was no place for farewells, to collect things and memories. Arabella's decision was to save her children even if it meant exile.

When Magaly reflects on those times, she says that there is no way to calculate the pain of that abandonment. Going this way, he says, is tearing the roots of a plant to the bad, causing deep wounds.

They left for El Espinal and then she, thanks to an aunt, ended up in Cali. He sought a loan with Icetex and entered the Santiago de Cali University to study Social Communication. The pains that the war had left him would never disappear from his heart, but from her speech. She says that almost none of her companions knew what she had gone through, she did not want to tell her, she did not want to be recognized for that.

Some four years after her displacement, she was called from San Antonio to participate in the reign of her people. Although Dona Arabella put the cry in the sky, there was no better excuse for Edna Magaly to return to step on her land and see her mountains. So she accepted and won. From there she continued to represent her municipality in the Reign of Folklore, the most important of the department.

"It was a very nice experience, now to see all the people of the town united around a joy. The people were very generous. I dressed with all the love and pride the typical costume of my region, with which 'The Smuggler' is interpreted. I still have it, it means a lot to me. On that occasion I was a princess. From there I went to other contests, represented my department in the Livestock Reign in Monteria and in the Colonies, in Meta, where I won, "she says.

Edna Magaly says that being a queen and then a model gave her a lot of life more than you might believe someone who considers these as irrelevant activities. She learned to face the world, to accept criticism, to speak in public, to be practical. "But above all, he made me take my land with me wherever I went, gave me the opportunity to talk about my origins in many places, to highlight their good things above all the drama that had been lived there."

The door opened

Up there, Edna Magaly, the victim, remained silent and hidden behind work and study. But it was time to do the thesis. Professor Camilia Gómez Cotta was the instrument through which this woman from Tolima was reconnected with her history. She knew about her background and suggested that she get into the subject of conflict for her final work.

"So I started reading a lot, hitting the bits of my story and realizing that the violence of the conflict had affected my family long before I existed."

The young woman embarked on a physical and emotional journey to Rioblanco, Tolima, the town of grandmother Rosita, "a municipality steeped in history, where the memories of people who lived through the violence from the periphery, who watched them bleed to her people, they raised their arms for the resistance and after the break of some pacts, they met in the defense again the terror ", as she says in her final document to access the title of Social Communicator.

Her family, she says in her text, they asked until tired that she did not make that trip, to protect her life, "but I have decided that I should vent the pain and let this passage flow to serve as a catharsis, not only for me, but also for those who have known closely the consequences of the Colombian violence.”

That adventure was consigned in a book that awaits to be published. "I cried every interview and I realized that there were people who had pain even worse than mine. But the most revealing thing for me was to understand the origin of the conflict, to realize that the guerrilla that I hated so much was also made up of human beings who in the beginning had no other choice than to arm themselves or die. "

Professor Camilia says that for her to accompany this work was "to rediscover the geography of the violence of our country, or, as beautifully sung by Carlos Vives, walk the land of Oblivion. From the hand of Magaly I met Rioblanco and part of the hatred that has been sown for generations in places of our Colombia. Through her sweetness, her eyes and her pain I contemplated a life that is many lives at the same time and that meant to me to try to be a better human being, because I do not know how many more Magalys I can find on the way ".

When she talks about this chapter of her life, Edna Magaly still shows the astonishment on her face: the world was not made of bad and good, we are all an amalgam of circumstances and decisions, she said. Then, only then, began to feel that forgiveness had crossed the corner and now walked on the same sidewalk.

His thesis, which after some adjustments became his book, is now called 'Desvictimizándome' and is accompanied by a phoenix on its cover. On the day of its support, says Professor Oscar Ortega, the girl entered the classroom wearing her typical Tolima costume and sang “Sings a Pijao, "in an act of honesty, longing and resilience before which it was impossible not to be moved":

"Because I carry a river in my soul
and a mountain in the heart
because I am like the free tree
that grows looking at the sun".

It was never the same again. The final point of his thesis was the beginning of a new need, that of telling his story, that of inviting reconciliation. She created on YouTube a channel called "Devictimize, it's time to be reborn", through which he began to give useful information so that society can guide the victim community: what they are entitled to, what does Law 1448 or Victims Law imply, what calls are open for this community, what is the offer that the city has for them. And she started with her free workshop by schools and universities, challenging people to ask each other, to think about each other. Found, he says, a mission.


-"To the police? Why they are going to take a victim who asks for help from the police or why they are going to invite her to make a 'cambuche'. Did you know that the law protects this population, that the City Halls have a place to serve them and process their needs, that the State must repair them? "She tells her audience at the university in Cali, which she visited at the beginning of last March.

She explains that in Cali the place where they should take a victim is called Regional Center and is in the Guayaquil neighborhood, in Carrera 15 with Calle 16 and tells them that the mere fact of being informed about this type of things is a contribution to peace. And that a victim, imagine her always tired, sad and even dirty, "is not a stereotype, and is a worthy person, with history, that in its territory had a home, animals and friends."

"Those of us who have lived through the conflict do not want others to have to go through what we have gone through. I invite you to ask: what country do we want to build? Do we want to follow the hatred or look forward? I am grateful to be able to say today that I am a victim devictimized ".

Inevitably after that public confession of his life and becoming, comes from the listeners applause and sometimes, a few hugs with tears. Think the same or diametrically different, recognize the value of who in the name of peace and without knowing them, strips their soul.

Written by: Luz Jenny Aguirre T.