I was barely four years old when I saw the dead man. Two thin feet stuck out from beneath a pile of newspapers, coated with mud from the black and fertile soil of my hometown. I could not see his face, only his faded and patched pants. I buried that memory deep in my mind until almost 50 years later, it came flooding back, and I searched for answers.
The town’s unofficial historians, women in their late seventies and early eighties, sighed and said: the dead man was a rebel. He was a Huk killed by government forces assigned to our town to prevent insurgents from taking over and to guard the hacienda. The hacienda, rich with coconut trees, pineapples and coffee trees, was owned by one of the richest men in the country. But what did a four year old know of the scourge of landlessness, of hunger for land? I was the granddaughter of the hacienda cashier and daughter of the town doctor. I went to school in leather shoes while other students wore wooden clogs or went barefoot. I was privileged and ignorant
History repeats itself. Fifty years later I am talking to an angry young man, a sharecropper at another coconut hacienda. His father lost his life at the hands of armed men allied with local landowners. The wife and son are now in danger of losing theirs. Their only crime—to ask that the law on land reform be implemented. This time I am not four years old. This time I understand.