Pastor Salvador's small wooden church sits right next to his house. In the middle of the north wall underneath the light switch there is a herd of five electrical outlets, unmatched and randomly spaced, with the bottom one dangling two feet below the rest. There are three more clustered on another post in the back corner.
When the sun begins to set each evening Salvador cranks the 75 year-old diesel motor that powers his generator. That generator runs the pump that refills the water tanks, lights the house, runs the TV. It runs during church services, too, for the piano, sound system, lights, ceiling fans, and lastly, to use those outlets to charge cell phones. It is another example of a shared resource and community solidarity. No one else has even a generator. Cell coverage is spotty, but everybody has a basic phone, and they are critical for the campaign to regain property titles.
When I left off Garzal's story last year, they were on the brink of an incredible success. Sixty-four titles were delivered while Julie and I were on the plane to Paris to celebrate our anniversary. As we also expected, there were wrinkles. They were still awaiting the remaining two hundred and some titles. The Barreto family continued to file counter suits. And Salvador and his wife received death threats so serious that they decided to leave Garzal in late May. They just returned home again prior to the new year.
The Garzal-Nueva Esperanza titling process is not only continuing with renewed optimism, but other communities are asking for advice on how do the same thing. I was present this last week as Salvador shared the first of several training sessions with the community of El Guayabo, across the Magdalena and downstream a few miles. Guayabo farmers are experiencing threats from another wealthy family very similar to the Garzal situation. Most have been working their land for twenty to forty years, far more than needed to establish ownership of abandoned territory.
The excitement, optimism, and sense of unity at that meeting was palpable as Salvador laid out the legal framework for possession and the basic rules of working together non-violently towards their goal. We were there along with another group from Switzerland who share accompaniment responsibilities with CPT. The residents kept expressing their amazement that people in the US, Canada, and Europe actually cared about what was happening in their lives. It was a powerful moment for me, as well.
Thank you friends and family for mentoring and encouraging me to be here and for helping to pay my way.