By: León Valencia for @infobae
Translation by: María Victoria Ramírez
Patricia Tobón Yagarí has been appointed director of the Victims Unit. No one more suitable to fill this position. For his intelligence, for his preparation and for his experience. But above all, for that stubborn way of defending their ethnic identity and honoring the memory of their ancestors.
Every time Patricia has been entrusted with great responsibilities, I have felt enormous joy and pride. As if she were my own daughter. She is the daughter of two dear friends from my youth: Alonso Tobón and Eulalia Yagari. With them I shared the indigenous and peasant struggles in the coffee zone of the department of Antioquia. Alonso was born in Andes, the town where I was born. Eulalia, from a very close town, Jardín, in an Emberá-chami community, which is now a reservation.
We had great time together, including seeing our children grow up and knowing that they understood and loved what we did, even though that meant we did not pay enough attention to them. The joy of seeing peasants and indigenous people get better wages, land to work or cultural and social acknowledgment.
But we also had sad times. One of them, the murder of Anibal Tascón Gonzales, the only indigenous lawyer in Colombia at that time. He was a liberal who confronted the people of his party and the patrons of those lands to defend the community. He accompanied the indigenous people in a dispute over a farm against Libardo Escobar Pérez, a landowner from the region, and that cost him his life. Patricia knows about these things since childhood. And she knows more, because she learned it from her parents and because later she committed herself with an enviable passion to study in order to serve her people with professionalism.
Her father was the son of a butcher from Andes, a rooster player, who had the facility to give the most demanding education to a boy who shone for his intelligence. But Alonso preferred to dedicate his entire life to the Colombian indigenous people. In that mission he was with the Zenú indigenous people in Córdoba, with the Emberá in Chocó and with the diversity of ethnic groups in Cauca.
Eulalia, an indigenous leader, became a teacher to educate her community and to teach her own daughters their first letters of the alphabet. Later she made a successful political career that took her to the Assembly of Antioquia as a deputy. Ella was a unique voice in that political arena for her denunciations and for the astute way in which he approached the debates against that exclusionary and discriminating Paisa leadership. He gave unforgettable lessons of dignity. Later she would return to her indigenous people to take care of her identity and enjoy her daughters’ achievements.
Patricia took advantage of her intelligent parents, persistent in their struggles. But her own merits are indisputable. After graduating as a lawyer, she spent several years working with the Colombian Indigenous Organization (Spanish: Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia), successfully defending indigenous causes across the country.
She was not just another person in the Truth Commission. She took seriously the representation of the indigenous world in an entity that has just fulfilled the complex mission of accounting for the repertoire of violence that has overwhelmed Colombia in the last sixty years. Patricia insisted that their situation was different, that the indigenous people, original settlers of these lands, carried on their shoulders the weight of centuries-old aggression. Their contribution rise above the time when the guerrillas, the paramilitaries and the State caused the tragedy, and is rooted in a long history of exclusion.
Now, in the Petro government, she has a greater task. Truly commit the entire Colombian society to the more than nine million victims registered by the Truth Commission; recover for the victims' unit the central role that President Iván Duque denied it; and, above all, begin the long road that the country will have to travel to heal the wounds left by this painful conflict. It is an enormous task that Patricia Tobón Yagarí will surely fulfil with honour. Congratulations to her parents, my friends.