A Photographer Confronts His Family’s Tragic Past in Colombia’s War

Andrés Cardona recalls the scenes in his own family image albums, little rectangles of recollections as faded as the photographs themselves: birthdays, baptisms, weddings, Halloween and Christmas gatherings. Over time, these everyday moments that when stuffed his circle of relatives’ lifestyles in Colombia went from mundane to morbid.
“From one moment to the following, I commenced seeing lifeless people, cadavers,” Mr. Cardona said. “My father’s burial, the murder of a cousin, pics of people who have been murdered throughout the armed struggle.”
As a photographer, Mr. Cardona, 30, become used to documenting Colombia’s bloody history as a many-years-old civil conflict inflicted on strangers. But like so a lot of his countrymen, members of his family had been killed after accusations that they have been insurrection supporters. His great-grandfather, father, mother, uncle and other family participants — in most cases farmers who advocated land reform and hard work rights — had been sentenced to precis executions at the hands of the army.
Over the last three years, Mr. Cardona has confronted his circle of relatives’ records, drawing upon photos, own family pictures and re-creations of murder scenes to bridge the past to the prevailing with the wish of creating the feel of — and accepting — all that passed off.
“It is so smooth to file another character’s pain with a digital camera,” he stated. “But while you file your self, that’s in which I began to sense that I additionally lived through this and concealed it. It becomes either I do that story or permit it to be forgotten. I cannot allow that. I told myself it became time, although it hurts. But I ought to do it.”
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By the early Nineteen Fifties, the civil warfare that started out in 1945 between conservatives and liberals had claimed his incredible-grandfather’s life, Mr. Cardona said. He recalled how his grandmother Maria Vargas informed him that she changed into unable to retrieve her father’s corpse, as puppies picked on the body.
Mr. Cardona was born in San Vicente del Caguán, in Caquetá Department, but moved several instances throughout childhood after his father, Hernando Cardona Vargas, and his uncle Aldemar Vargas were executed and dumped in a mass grave. They were lacking for eight days, till their corpses had been unearthed.

“My grandmother and mother took us with them to the army base to get their cadavers,” he said. “They took us to the battalion in which the those who killed him had been asked to give them a proper burial. No one may want to see their faces due to the fact they were disfigured by means of bullets and an excessive amount of time had passed.”

Mr. Cardona admitted that his youth reminiscences have been murky, however, that his memories of the burial remained vivid, as did the trips to the cemetery wherein he and his brother clambered atop a statue of Jesus.
When his mother, Luz Mercy Cruz, began searching into the situations of the double homicide, she also sealed her destiny. Their handiest offense, Mr. Cardona stated, changed into that they supported higher running conditions and assured human rights. Still, in lots of parts of Latin America, the one’s convictions are punishable through dying.
Mr. Cardona’s mother, who supported her kids via sewing and making artisanal crafts, commenced getting warnings that she become being accompanied. Eight months after her husband’s murder, she became leading a workshop on human rights at a community collecting within the geographical region, close to the mountains where guerrillas were hiding.
“The army got here and surrounded the location wherein they have been assembly,” he stated. “They took out the leaders and took out my mom. They killed seven personas, pronouncing they have been linked to the guerrillas.”
To at the present time, he has no concept where his mother is buried.
Mr. Cardona turned into raised via his grandmother in Puerto Rico de Caquetá, wherein paramilitary forces — whose gaze he was taught to ward off — had imposed a 6 p.M. Curfew for several years. He remembers hearing the noisy chaos of government bombs being dropped close by.

Paulette Hamilton

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