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The 2,000 indigenous people of the National Park reach an agreement with the Government to return to their territories

One of the most emblematic shots of Bogotá is about to end. Indigenous people from different parts of Colombia arrived at the National Park eight months ago to denounce the threats and violence they suffer from armed groups. The struggle, after putting up with living in tents in the capital’s park, begins to bear fruit. The Government signed an agreement with them last week to guarantee safe conditions for their return to their villages. It is not the solution to all your problems, but it is a beginning. Despite the agreement, some have chosen to be relocated to Bogotá.

The buses have been parked in front of the park since this Saturday to begin the transfer of the 15 indigenous peoples to their home. In the rain, the different families debate between what to pack and what to leave in the park that has been their home in recent months. “Let’s take the pots and a piece of firewood just in case we need to cook on the way,” says Luz, 49.

The agreement includes the participation of indigenous people in the public indigenous policy that the District will initiate in the coming days and support for their undertakings. In addition, it was agreed that the Ministry of the Interior and the Unit for the Attention and Comprehensive Reparation of Victims be in charge of guaranteeing the return to their territories of origin in a safe manner. They will also be given financial support to finance their productive projects and housing alternatives in accordance with their socio-cultural practices.

Evening falls over the National Park, where until a few months ago at this time dozens of young people trained soccer, boyfriends walked hand in hand and children ate ice cream after spending time playing. Today the landscape is completely different for passers-by passing through one of the main arteries of the city, Carrera VII. The entrance to the public park is fenced and the indigenous people make guards to watch who goes in and out.

Makeshift tents made of plastic and mattresses on the ground have been their home this time. in one of these cambuches, as they call the huts, the leader of the Zenú community, Luz Marina Navarro, 56, slept. Navarro was kidnapped by the guerrillas for three years because she was the social leader in her town. Since then, she has not been able to return to her territory. She had to move to Bogotá, where she has been living for 15 years. “We ask that they relocate us in the city or be able to return to our territories with guarantees. We are here because of the armed conflict. It has been very difficult to endure the cold, the rain, the lack of food and not being able to sleep. But here we continue to fight for our rights”, she told her a few days ago.

Almost 600 children have lived inside the park. Two have died and three have been born in this time. Parents are very concerned about the level of malnutrition that their little ones are suffering, in addition to the fact that they are not in school. To this they add the insecurity of sleeping in the open.

The food that has arrived at the camp during these months comes from solidarity donations and sometimes it is not enough for everyone. “We almost always have a pound of rice for breakfast, but sometimes it is not enough,” explained Navarro. She has slept with her partner on a mattress under plastic along with 16 other families with whom they share the few blankets they have. The leader’s eyes light up when she remembers the breakfasts she made in her land. They got up every morning to fish in the river. “If we were in our territory, we would have our crops and our animals.” She remembers everything she has had to live through and sighs: “In war you always lose.”

Luz Marina Navarro, majority of the Zenú indigenous community.
Luz Marina Navarro, majority of the Zenú indigenous community.Ivan Valencia

The more than 1,900 indigenous people have drunk water from a single tap that has a small hose. Many have gotten sick because it is not drinkable. It is also the same one they use to bathe and wash clothes next to a hockey field. Two public toilets served everyone.

Since September 29, 2021 – the first day that the communities arrived at the National Park – the district administration opened a dialogue with them that until this last week had not progressed. Those who do not want to return to their territories will now be able to move to the Comprehensive Protection Unit of Engativá. There, the District has assured them food, health services, education and early childhood care. In addition, spaces will be opened for the commercialization of their products. With these commitments, the indigenous have been getting on the buses throughout the weekend, loaded with bags full of clothes in search of a safe home.

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