To build peace, you must understand the violence
“Once upon a time, an old man was seated in front of his grandson, he was thinking with his eyes closed. Regarding him, the little boy asked to his grandfather: -what are you thinking of grandpa’? – Shh, be quiet, because inside of my head, there is a big fight between two wolfs… one of them, is the wolf of fear, hate, misery, violence and all kinds of separation… the other wolf who is fighting, represents kindness, courage, forgiveness, peace and all kinds of confidence…- Wow- said the little boy- and tell me, who is going to win? – The old man kept in silence for a while, and then, opening his eyes quietly, he answered slowly: - the wolf that is going to win this fight inside of my head, is that to whom I decide to feed more”
I don’t remember how old I was when my father told me this little story… I only know that I was young, and that the deep content of that tale, marked me in a fantastic way that I am still discovering today.
By that time, my father was confined in a wheelchair after an accident that left him handicapped when I was 8 … he was a wise man who taught me a lot of things, a lot of values, of course, along with my mother, from whom I also received many life lessons of love and strength to face any kind of circumstances… even the worst scenario.
I used to believe (I like to believe) that life is a long road of apprenticeship… and in that sense, I consider myself as a lucky woman, because in some way, life has provided me with so many “gifts”, so many fantastic and hard lessons.
Obstacles: the best training
I was born into a big family. I am the last in line of a family of 8 members: seven sisters and one brother. My mother had me when she was 43. At that time (37 years ago) it was normal that the families were numerous.
In some way, we were a “happy” country. We had a rare political system, with only one political party in the power, with practically no opposition; so any kind of rebellion, any kind of social wound, any kind of attempt to change things (and there were many) was quickly silenced by an efficient machinery of something that the analysts used to call “the perfect dictatorship” (In fact, Mexico had presidents from the same party for 71 years, something unique in the entire world)
Mine was an average mid-class family, and even we were not exactly poor, only the two last ones (my brother and I) were born in a hospital, also something normal for a country where development walked slowly, especially in those places far away from the Country’s capital city.
There at the hospital, “life lessons” started for me: the nurse that was receiving me, broke something by accident in my spinal column. Vainly, my parents tried to fix that damage, so I grew up with a defect in my left arm… and only years after, I learned how a weakness could become in strength.
Since that hard beginning, I have been learning from those “obstacles” that life has given to me. My father had this accident when I was a child, and my mother showed us all the strength that was hidden in a fragile woman.
Alone, from a one day to another, she jumped marvelously over the tragedy… and I still wonder how.
She became the perfect nurse, she was mother and father at the same time, she became a counselor, friend and authority, she built our family and supported my father, who slowly became and transformed himself into a very spiritual (not religious) person, all of the latter to her, because she was in charge and taking care of every need that we as a family had.
For us, their children, it was another “difficult gift” that gave us a weird but fantastic balance to face our lives. We grew up by learning from their daily example, both, material and spiritual…
Everyone gets out of the labyrinth… but you must get lost inside of it first
I’m Mexican, but even for me, is not easy to understand my own country. That is why I still consider my family as a “special and different laboratory”.
My mother was catholic, like 90% of the Mexican population, my father was protestant, something odd at the time, although not now. They had 7 girls but we never suffered “machismo attitudes”, which is usual in my culture. We never saw violence against us, when actually at least 7 of 10 Mexican women experiment that.
I live in a country with at least 50 millions of poor people, but I never suffered hungry. I never faced discrimination like the 10 millions of indigenous people; no one of my near relatives has died in a violent way or has been linked to the criminality. I use to feel that in some way, I grew up in a bubble of tranquility, even when all around me was completely different to the rest of Mexican population.
In 1950, only 4 years before of parent’s marriage, Octavio Paz, one of the best writers of my country, wrote ‘El laberinto de la soledad’(The Labyrinth of Solitude) to explain the Mexican character. His thesis was that ‘Mexican race is the result of a continued rape and violence’.
Indeed, our history is plenty of contradictions in that sense. We are a warrior race, but I am afraid that we lost the real sense of our fights. In some point, we stopped to fight for ourselves, and we started to fight against us.
We forgot our dignity and we yield to the violence. At some place of the road, our fears were bigger of our courage and we lost the perspective.
And when you live in a country, when you belong to a culture, sooner or later, in one way or another, you also have to accompany its reality, even if you don’t want it, and that happened to me: in some point, “the wolf of violence” got stronger in my life, and only now, I understand that it should had been that way
You can’t run away from your mission
In 2001, I was working with NBC as producer, and I just had finished a story of one of our social problems: human strugglers in the Mexican-US border.
One day, at the end of my duties I took a taxi and the driver kidnapped me. It was just an “express-kidnapping”, a very usual way to abduct people in my country in that time, after the street violence was growing up since the Mexican financial crisis of 1995.
I spent more than 3 hours fearing my own death, imagining it and preparing myself to face it. Finally the man took my belongings and left go. For me, September 11th is personally unforgettable: it was the day that the man who kidnapped me, called me home to say “he knew exactly how to find me”. I finally experimented in my own flesh the real violence of my country.
That day, I promised myself to run away from Mexico, but I could only do that in 2003, after my father’s dead… and after a miscarriage... it was a dark period in my life, because at that time, I also started to suffer violence from my boyfriend, a kind of violence that I couldn’t identify because I have never seen it before, never, even statistics says that 3 of 5 woman suffer that experience at least once in a relationship.
Life continued to giving me her lessons, and there would be more...in fact, my true learning to find my mission had barely begun.
During that time, when I was lost in the blackness of my mind, I also acknowledged that some of my sisters had faced illegal abortions, completely alone, desperate, and with all the dangers related.
It was difficult for me to believe and understand illegal abortions in my family. And I have to say that this practice, even the abortion is now permitted in the capital of my country, since 2007,(although not yet in other cities) is still the fourth cause of death.
Fortunately, in my own case it was Nature who decided… and once again, only on time, I could understand that life is always wise if you really learn to read the messages… if you really understand that every event is a “gift from life” to form you into a better person…
Anyway, when I finally left my country in 2003, I didn’t know all this, and the “bad wolf” inside my head was still winning the battle, and would remain like that for a while, before I started to wake up
Don’t let reality ruin a good story
Voices of war and peace were fighting in the entire world when I arrived to my first auto-exile destiny: Brussels, in Belgium, where I landed to learn French… and most of all, to forget, to recover the inner tranquility, to find the way to get out of the labyrinth
My first and huge exterior decision was to quit international TV business; it was hard because of the times: precisely in March 2003 the coalition (US, UK and Spain) started the invasion to Irak... but little by little I did it: I turned off the television, and I took the first steps to become an investigative print journalist.
I forgot the war outside, and for a year, I was only concentrated in my own peace. I worked only for myself, I studied, I read, I started new contacts and to collect stories to tell in my new elected journalistic position.
However, I was still damaged inside. My own story of violence with my former boyfriend was growing up, and somehow, I didn’t realize it in its entire magnitude… my self-esteem was disappearing in front in my eyes and without me noticing. I moved to Paris with him: my most important “gift of life” was about to arrive to my door, disguised of the worst time that I ever remember.
It took me almost a year to “have enough”. When I left him at the end of 2004, indeed, I was completely another person: weakened, frightened, broken… absolutely lost. I was a zombie, thinking of suicide, feeling betrayed and also a traitor of my own principles. Finally I dared to cry and to tell others what was happening to me, it was a very difficult step… but little by little, I started my own reconstruction.
And life understood my sign when I said: “OK, show me what I have to learn from this”.
Peace is forgiveness … and to forgive, you must understand
To forgive is maybe the hardest lesson in life, and for that reason it is the most powerful inner tool. Any war, exterior or interior, could stop with a gesture of forgiveness.
In early 2005 I received an unexpected call: I was accepted to study “Culture of Peace” in Spain (did I ever asked for this? I was wondering to myself) I moved to Barcelona and there, I started to understand not only peace motivations, but violence as well, and that understanding was incredibly healing. Only then, I entirely opened that “gift of life” disguised of violence: I had been feeding the wrong wolf inside my head.
For my final thesis, at the beginning I was obviously determined to write about violence against woman. But latter, I started to read news from Mexico, talking about thousands of executions linked to the drug trafficking. Then, I changed my mind.
I remembered my own kidnapping. I remembered that people in my country –and most of all, the women- have been attacked by different kinds of violence in their daily lives (physical, cultural, economical, and a long etcetera) since many years ago… so I started an essay called: “Mexico in the labyrinth of contradictions: a war with no name”… and that essay was for me as an electric shock.
By reading the newspapers I used to find things like: “in Mexico, 120,000 women are victims of rape every year… at least 14,000 people are dying in violent episodes, about 4.2 million of people in Mexico have suffered a delinquency attack”.
I didn’t stop to tremble until I finished my essay… then, another obsession started to grow up inside of me, because I noticed the supremacy of negative content in the press. I started to analyze other newspapers, international television and radio contents… and I started to see press with a completely different view.
I understood that that kind of press were feeding the bad wolf in people’s minds: That was the first idea that I had to create a different media.
A piece of peace in a war battle
When I started my career, I used to dream to be a war correspondent. One night, in 2006, a name appeared while I was sleeping: Peace Correspondent. From a deep place of my conscience emerged the piece of the puzzle that I was searching for a long time, it was enclosed inside of my soul, by my own personal story.
Finally in 2009, I created a website of peace journalism named “Peace Correspondent”, a new digital media to explore another kind of stories: those about people working for a change all around the world.
Peace Correspondent was born exactly 6 year after that March of 2003, when I was trying to run away from violence, and when the war voices silenced for a while, the peace desires.
After all those "gifts from life" I have been receiving, now I think it is my turn, to offer my own gift to life: mine is a peaceful journalistic piece for the world's puzzle, to feed “the good wolf” of our minds.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.