Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More about Faca

Facatativa (Faca) has a stunning view with a heavy reality.  The weekend I was there for the weekend, Father Javier took me around the community and explained the issues that plague its people.  There are narco-traffickers up the mountain who demand individuals pay them some sort of life-tax (I would call it).  These people hardly have enough to maintain a basic level of subsistence without being extorted.  Yet if they refuse to pay or just can't then they will "disappear".  Many, if not most, of the young women begin having children as early as age 14.  Claudia, Father Javier's wife, mentioned that it was not uncommon to have a twenty to twenty-two year old with four or five children.  A family that I have gotten to know goes along with that image.  The mother is 32 and her oldest child is 18.  She has four or five children with the youngest at less than two years old.  They all live together in house no bigger than Audra's and my apartment.  The husband who is at least twenty years older than the mother is somehow disabled and unable to work; if you ask Claudia, she says he is just unwilling to work.  So the entire family depends on the 18 year old son to sustain the family.  The young-mother-plight occurs for many of the same reason it occurs in other areas of the world; lack of sex education, lack of parental presence, limited resources in ones own family leads to the 'need' for young women to leave the home early and join with a man who can provide for her (although in the case of this family, the father was only a provider until he could lay the responsibility/burden on his, way too young, son). 

 The agricultural life is absolutely gruling.  An individual may work from 7am - 4 or 5pm picking peas (a labor intensive job) all day to come away with $4; and that is after the work of tilling, planting and tending.  The harvest is the only time when they make any money.  If you are talking about potatoes (the majority of the crops of Faca), the income is even less.  There is also great strife that presence itself in Faca and around Colombia that targets Anglican/Episcopalians.  Father Javier explained that there are three types of people: those that just let the 'Episcopalians' be, those that attend the church and those that are bent against it (as a result of the strong Roman Catholic culture).  The latter has proven to be quite the challenge.  The seriousness of this conflict was made clear when Javier explained that the priest before him left Faca for what he felt were safety concerns.  Another telling example is that one of his son's professors tried to fail him for no other reason than he was Episcopalian.  The only reason he didn't fail him is because Javier is a lawyer and went and laid the law down (literally).  The professor apologized saying 'if I had known his father was a lawyer I would have never thought of failing him' - LIKE THAT'S THE POINT!  I think one of the dominant reasons I didn't come back from Faca refreshed was because it was such a heavy reality experience.  These people are so very kind and full of life and love (those who I met; who granted are not always easy to get along with, as Javier told me; but none the less wonderful people).  They struggle to get enough food, education tends to not be top priority (although there are young people attending college) and non-responsible sex practices are the cultural norm.  

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