Recovering Paradise – A Family Story of Loss, Resilience, Forgiveness, and Love

Colombia’s history pivots from deep antagonism, conflict, and violence to reminiscing hope, reconciliation, forgiveness, and a constant healing transformation process. Over the past few decades the war on drugs, and the internal warfare over the control of coca resources and production have led to many stories of grief. One such heartbreaking and inspiring story centres around the family Jimenez located deep into the Uraba gulf area only two hours away by boat sailing to Panama.

The Uraba region displays one of the most beautiful Deltas worldwide, a place where 25% of the world’s endemic species are placed in. It is also a region of transit for drug routes and more recently for migrant pathways onto the North following the North American dream. Most recently even African rooted refugees have made it it through being guided by paramilitaries through rivers and valleys onto the Panama region. It is a region where a constant battle took place over the control of resources and production with both paramilitaries and guerrilla fighting over land.

The Darien Magical Delta Cruise

I am seated in a taxi driving with Enilda, the youngest sister in a family of 19 brothers, and co-creator of the Suriki Nature Reserve eco-farm and forest. Her family story deeply coincides with Colombia’s pathway starting from a deep loss and traumatic event experience, and leading towards reconciliation, forgiveness, while following own’s vision and dreams. As we drive past large banana plantations, I am made aware that the en masse production here feeds most of Europe’s and North American’s supermarkets with Chiquitas growing rapidly due to the chemical fertilizer used to speed up production. “My bananas are much more tasty and healthy”, the taxi driver tells me as I pass by the scene of the largest workers’ massacre in Colombia’s history magical realistically pictured into Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Noble Literature Price winning book, “A Hundred Years of Solitude”.

“Do you want to see the place where my father was murdered?” I look into Enilda’s eyes, and sense a peaceful presence. She looks at me, I nod a little uncomfortably with her pointing on the side of the road. “He was shot here in the mid 1990s when I was 15”. The paramilitaries targeted their land and following his refusal, one of them summarily executed him. A little time before, one of her brothers was killed by the Guerrilla. The family had to leave the land subsequently, and after 25 years in exile they finally recovered their territory.

Colombia’s history is deeply connected to the Jimenez family’s odyssey. Decades of warfare between the Guerrilla, and the State with the support of Paramilitaries took many lives away. Following the Peace Accords, a reconciliation process started, and in exchange for handing down the weapons, redemption and societal integration was granted to all parties. Through the Peace Accords’ process Enilda’s family recovered her land. It took an avid courage to return to a place where traumatic memories still lingered but following a night of drinking Ayahuasca, her intuitive heart consciousness made it clear that her home and eco-project was calling her back. In the process of recovery, she went even deeper to an ultimate decision. She decided to forgive her father’s killer.

“You have to be brave to face your father’s killer in the eyes, and to be able to forgive; to see a human being inside and find enough love to forgive, and be at peace”. I feel her words going straight into my heart, and I instantly feel and admiration for her resilience, passion, and love of herself and the land.

We reach the harbor by the Darien Delta river where Enilda’s brother Gordo is awaiting us. We will be traveling by a small motor boat across an astonishingly beautiful tropical jungle setting. As we cruise through it at small pace, Enilda points occasionally to various birds I have never seen before anywhere else. At some point, she jumps and shows me with a candid and passionate affection a family of spider monkeys crawling from tree to tree. She tells me how lucky I am to be welcome to her reserve by this rare moment. We cruise further with some adventures such as the boat making a hard stop, and Gordo spending half an hour fixing the engine but I did not mind. I was in the middle of paradise feeling immersed into a video game play alike setting in which the characters are the mother nature and us – together blended into a symbiotic magnificent love story.

At one point Gordo asks us not to take any photos for the following 20 minutes; we are approaching a paramilitary house where civil and armed guards can confiscate our phones or stop the ride if they feel an undercover cop is amongst us. This area is notoriously known for coca trafficking being the main route north onto Panama, and then further to Mexico and the US. Paramilitaries are strategically placed to run the traffic whilst also “vaccinating” the locals regularly by demanding cows, money or specific goods in exchange for allowing life to continue without harm. They say they are here to protect but in reality they are controlling the area for their own financial benefit.


Enilda and her love for nature

 Monkey Mother and Child living in a tree

As we come closer to the farm, the delta becomes narrower, and we have a even better chance to feel the nature fully. We witness cappuccino monkeys lurking around, we smell the tropical freshness of the selva, and we finally arrive home. 

Enilda’s home which consists of a large area of 600 HA including on the one hand of a farm setting where they are cultivating passion fruit sold as far as Medellin, raise cattle, horses, chickens, and grow various types of vegetables. It is a self-sufficient farm where everything is produced inside, and I have the delight to eat pure organic products cooked meticulously by Enilda’s older sister. At the same time, they also own a large portion of tropical forest where their main project supports reforestation and nature protection.

We spend 3 wonderful days together partaking tree planting activities, visiting the local village where Enilda meets with other activists in the process of recovering their lands, and I feel blessed throughout the journey to be able to take a full break from technology and the constant speed our minds are invaded with in the regular fast city paced world.

A magical image comes alight remembering our first excursion in the forest where as we climb out of the boat, Enilda tells me to ask permission to the jungle to enter as she spreads plant incense perfumed oil on my hands. I breathe it in, put an intention, and slowly enter the mystery of nature only to be enchanted further by the large biosphere surrounding me.

As I write here days after leaving the reserve, I am still trembling of beauty inside having witnessed not only one of the most paradisiaque places alive but also having faced directly the beauty of a moving story of trauma, forgiveness, and of paradise recovered through hope and soul . Enilda and her family are a living example of resilience while focusing on what truly maters in life: family, community, nature, and a lot of self-love.

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