Way back in 1991, my parents decided to leave behind everything they knew in Colombia and come to the United States. In the 25 years since then, they’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to take advantage of all the blessings this country has to offer, one of the main ones being safety.
Ever since the 1960s, Colombia has been rocked by a terrorist group called the FARC, which stands for Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia and translates to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. When the group formed in 1964, it started with groups of poor farmers and land workers who were frustrated with the drastic income inequality in Colombia at the time, with extreme left-wing Communist ideas. Since then, it is estimated that about 220,000 civilians have died because of the violence, which includes planting land mines and high-profile bombings. The group is also known for taking hostages—including two family members of mine.
In 1991, my uncle was held hostage for only about a day, but in 1992, my cousin was held for about four months. My uncle suffers from PTSD because of this; he still has nightmares regularly about it. Though it is hard to fathom that this happened in my own family, I know that we are lucky that our family made it out alive and that they were only held for relatively short periods of time.
I am also lucky that I have never really suffered because of the FARC, but it is hard for me to watch the Colombian news and see how the violence affects my family and where they live. I have visited Colombia many times in my life and it is one of my favorite places in the world, and for good reason: it was voted the happiest country in the world last year. However, it is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that Colombia is still suffering greatly, and the fact that the referendum to amend relations with the FARC fell through—the Colombian public voted “no” in a very close race (50.2% of the population voted against the referendum).
Regardless of the failed peace accords, the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to create peace in Colombia. Though millions of Colombian people are frustrated, it is a great honor to now have a president who won an award of this level of prestige, and it is a big step.
I am extremely proud to be Colombian, and I believe Colombia has the resilience to come back from this.