“Carolina,” age 18, lives in a home for former combatants sponsored by the Colombian Family Welfare Institute. She joined the FARC ((Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia) guerrillas when she was 13 years old and lost her foot when she stepped on a landmine.
Copyright © Donna De Cesare, 2004
“My mother abandoned me when I was nine years old. I stayed with my grandmother and went to school. I was studying in 8th grade when, I just up and left and went with the guerrillas. I was thirteen years old. On the one hand it was because I liked the guns. I liked their uniforms. It was clear that people respected them a lot. And it was also because I felt so alone. My grandmother took care of me but I still felt alone.
I feel alone again now. A few days before this accident happened they [the Colombian army] killed all the people from my unit. Well not everyone was killed but we had fierce combat and many friends died fighting. Some were captured and gave themselves up. The few of us who survived and escaped went to the outskirts of the city. That is where this happened to me.
We knew there were landmines in the area to protect our supplies from the enemy, but we were not certain exactly where the landmines were. I heard something and ran and then I fell. When I stood up the mine exploded. I flew up in the air and hit into a tree. The impact of hitting the tree almost killed me. That night they took me to a doctor. It must have been about 11 pm. I didn’t know that my foot was gone. They didn’t want to tell me. They were afraid to. But the next day I realized and when I did it was like everything went black. It hit me hard and I tried to kill myself. But they found me with the knife and took it away from me.
I cried and cried for three days without stopping. I never imagined anyone could cry so much or so hard. But there was nothing else I could do. They kept me in the camp for a while but they couldn’t keep carrying me and my leg was getting worse. I had an aunt that they trusted and they brought me to her. They promised her that in 3 days they would come back and get me. But they didn’t come. We waited and waited and my leg got very infected. My aunt got afraid because of the smell [it was gangrenous] and so this is how my family decided to turn me in to the army.
Ever since then I’ve lived in a group home with 3 other girls who also used to be guerrillas. I can’t say I repent my past life though I do want to leave it behind. You can’t repent for loving people who loved and cared for you. The FARC was my family for many years. But I don’t believe what they believe anymore. What good is the war? My friends are dead and look at me. Sometimes I still cry and think who will ever love me now. But I will get a prosthetic leg. When I learn to walk with it and wear pants no one needs to know that I don’t have my foot.”