Life stories | Carlos Rodríguez Vera | Victims' Unit

'If he were with me
he would be the best dad in the world'

By César A. Marín

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Cecilia Cabrera, Carlos Rodríguez and Alejandra (in arms). Photo taken three days before the capture and return of the Palace of Justice.

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"Today I woke up loving life and I looked at the sky; I made shapes with the clouds and played with them for a while. The day passed, in the midst of sun and rain, and finally the night came, with its round moon, in all its splendor. I contemplated it and immediately you invaded my head and I felt you in my whole being; That gave me nostalgia because it led me to investigate my past and I remembered your story, I remembered that one day in the morning you said goodbye and you said goodbye, an eternal farewell that little by little became the hope of the embrace that was missing.

Not these. I try to recreate in my mind, to paint you with the sketches that everyone gives me of you and it is complicated because, inevitably, I have to think about your last days, how you lived them and do not know how much I would like to know you dead and buried; to have been able to mourn you and have a place to take flowers with".

- Alejandra Rodríguez Cabrera

Carlos Rodríguez Vera is one of the disappeared from the cafeteria of the Palace of Justice. Semblance of a generous, cheerful and friendly man, built from stories of his daughter, his wife and his brother.

One day in 1982, Carlos Rodríguez, from Bogota, arrived in Pasto, transferred by the company where he worked. In the capital of Nariño, he met his wife, Cecilia Cabrera. "I lived in the center of Pasto and one night in 1982, in a food place on the first floor of my house, there was a friend with Carlos, who when he greeted me said that he (Carlos) wanted to meet me", recalls Cecilia, who, without knowing, learned the words of the great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges: "Every chance meeting is mysteriously a date". But that night their first meeting was limited to the exchange of greetings, glances and a few other words.

However, another day, in the same business, again the presence of his friend and Carlos made Cecilia could not hide the suspicion that the second meeting was not the result of coincidence or chance, but a premeditated plan of conquest. That day, the words overcame the boundaries of greeting and became future invitations.

"From then on, we started going out, he started to visit me and it was very nice because we had something in common, which was that we both liked sports. I remember when we were boyfriends he would make some paper boxes, he taught me how to make them and he would write me messages of love there", she recalls.

The 'swallow' was mutual and forceful: at 10 months they were married in Pasto. The priest's blessing on June 23, 1983, made Cecilia stay in Pasto for six months without having yet finished her economics degree.

"I soon became pregnant with my first baby and in Holy Week in 1984 I lost it; I was exactly seven months pregnant. It was a rare loss because at seven months of pregnancy everything was normal and we never knew what happened to the baby; Anyway, it was a hard blow for both of them", remembers Cecilia. That sadness was exceeded thanks to the solidity of the feelings that were professed.

"My husband was a tender, affectionate, optimistic, understanding man; He was a person of integrity and transparency in his way of acting, with a very pleasant and spectacular tone of voice", she says.

Carlos's family consisted of mother, father and three brothers: Gustavo, the oldest, has lived in the United States for years; César, the one in the middle, and Carlos, the youngest.

During adolescence, Carlos overflowed with sympathy, generosity and joy; qualities of the good friend and partier. "He was the most sociable; everyone loved him, had good feelings with others and woke up people", says his brother César.

Wedding of Carlos and Cecilia, in June of 1983.

The administration of Palace of Justice cafeteria

But the joys of his youth were no guarantee of success in adulthood. At the beginning of 1985, Carlos' father, Mr. Enrique - judge who in the middle of laws, codes and sentences managed to have good friends in the judicial branch -, offered him the administration of the Palace of Justice, along with a friend.

"Carlos and I were out of work, and Don Enrique's friend offered us to run the cafeteria. We had no idea of that, we were young: I was 25 years old and Carlos, 29; but, finally, we accepted and went to see the site, which we really liked because it was not really a cafeteria. It was a restaurant that accommodated more than 100 people, in which both the chef and the waiters were graduates from Sena. The clients were magistrates, people from Congress and from the Mayor's Office, which we found very interesting".

They assumed the administration towards the end of June 1985. Cecilia was again pregnant; with six months, of her daughter Alejandra. They were doing well and they were happy with the administration of the cafeteria. She worked until Tuesday, October 1, 1985, the day Alejandra was born, and returned to work on Tuesday, November 5, ignoring the 45 days of maternity leave.

The shot

"On Wednesday, November 6, Carlos left around seven in the morning; he said goodbye normally -we lived in Chapinero- and the last thing he told me was that we did the proceedings with Father Fray, a priest from the La Porciuncula Church, to advance the things related to Alejandra's baptism. He said: 'I'll wait for you at ten o'clock in the morning, like yesterday, bye', and he gave me a kiss. About nine thirty, he called me from the Palace, exactly from the telephone located in the basement, from the one I called him. In that conversation, Carlos told me that he had already gone to the bank to consign the money of the previous day and that he was waiting for me at the Palace at about ten o'clock. That was the last thing we talked about”.

"Finally, I left my house later because Mrs. Helena, my mother-in-law, who was taking care of Alejandra, went out to do a diligence, in which she took longer than usual and arrived at the house around eleven o'clock. At that time, I left for the Palace of Justice and arrived downtown at 11:40 am. Before arriving at the Palace, I passed, as usual, for the church of San Judas Tadeo, in the tenth with tenth, to pray for a few minutes. When I started to climb, I saw people running, everything was cordoned off, tanks (military vehicles) were coming to the center and someone told me that they had taken the Palace of Justice. I managed to take a taxi to the house of my in-laws and from there we started to call the basement phone of the Palace, but nobody answered. I never heard anything from Carlos.

Cecilia Cabrera, Alejandra Rodríguez and César Rodríguez, wife, daughter and brother of Carlos.

"Then came the struggles, the sit-ins and the protests, in the company of several families of disappeared persons during the taking of Palace of Justice, to know the whereabouts of our relatives", she continued.

To Mr Enrique, Carlos' father, from Santander, life was over in November 2010, at 90 years of age, 25 of which He devoted himself tirelessly to the search of his son. Mrs Helena, originally from Norte de Santander, also 90 years old, died seven months after Don Enrique, waiting for the truth about what happened to Carlos.

For her part, Alejandra - daughter of Carlos and Cecilia today 31 years old and with only 35 days after she was born at the time of her father's disappearance-, she talks about how complicated it has been to meet her father through the stories of family and friends. "It has not been an easy task; a little bit about the difficulty of what they represent for my mom, my uncle and my grandpa -when he was alive-, the memories of who my dad was, but I think with a little effort and the fact of sitting down and explaining them to them, how important it is for me to reconstruct my father's figure, to know who he was, what he was like, has helped something", she says.

With the help of stories, Alejandra managed to make a sketch of her father's figure; with the way of being of her grandparents, already deceased, and of her uncles, she elaborated a portrait of her feelings and behavior, which has helped her to imagine living with him. "I am sure that if he was here with me, he would be the best dad in the world", she continues.

Alejandra is a lawyer and student of a magister in international law who, in her moments of longing, writes poems to her father, because for her he has become a living verse that rhymes with her confessed and eternal love.

The violent taking of Palace of Justice, during the days 6 and 7 of November of 1985, left a balance of almost 100 dead and 12 missing people, among them eight employees from the cafeteria.

"I looked for you in my dreams, in the depths of them and at last I could find you; I talked with you for hours, but for me it was only a few seconds.

I miss you even without being able to give you a hug, without being able to tell you dad, I need you. I want to know who you are, to see you, to touch you, to smell you, to sit on your legs and to sleep in your lap.

To know the wonderful and great man that you were, fills me with pride, but I would like to have you here, by my side, to tell you that you are my hero, that you are a perfect model of what it means to be a man and, above all, be my dad.

I dreamed you and, in that dream, I stayed, I do not want to wake up and discover that today, like yesterday, as always, you are not by my side.

Where are you? Why are my nights turbid and bitter, cruel and incessant? It hurts, my heart hurts because I cannot feel you, my lips hurt because they have never been able to say dad, my head hurts from thinking and thinking and your whereabouts never find, today my feet hurt from so much walking knocking on door to see if finally, someone tells me where you are.

A utopia that will never be real, time will pass and finally one day I will tell you how much I love you dad“.

- Alejandra Rodríguez Cabrera

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