What a day! At 4.30 the cab is waiting for us at the door. We decided to visit Taita Édgar Orlando Gaitán Camacho, whom we met in 2008 at a ceremony with the sacred medicine they call yagé (ayahuasca) here. He impressed us very much at that time in the way he dealt with people who had lost someone in their family to violence. For many years he led ceremonies with the jungle plant Ahuawasca, which they call Jahe here. Since then we have had regular contact with him and have visited him every time one of us has been here. Many of us have participated in his ceremonies. He also visited us with a group of musicians on Global Grace Day 2010. I first contacted him before our first trip to Colombia because I had read that he had received the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 and was very committed to justice and non-violence in the country, especially for the campesinos and indigenous people of this country.
He was born in 1958 in the Carare-Opón region of Magdalena Medio, Santander province, Colombia, and spent his youth in the Carare mountains, where he learned the use of traditional medicine from his grandmother Salomé, one of the last full-blooded Carare. Early on, he was confronted with violence and began to advocate for nonviolent initiatives and also soon became a leading force in the nonviolent struggle against paramilitary, Farc and Geruilla, supported by his charismatic charisma, he pursued an outreach that opposed any kind of violence and he tried to bring back to consciousness the indigenous methods of community building. As a child and young man, he traveled extensively with his family throughout the rural regions of Colombia, where he gained knowledge and experience with traditional herbal medicines, including ayahuasca, and the cultural practices of their use. He later trained with indigenous shamans in the provinces of Putumayo, Caquetá, and Chocó.
At some point, the internal struggle against him began. To this day, there is a large following that is fully behind him.
A young woman accused him of sexual assault. This was joined by other women. In December 2019, he was sentenced to 29 years in prison, but due to a procedural error, that sentence was overturned last October and his sentence was reduced to 19 years. Now negotiations continue. Nine women were proven to have given false testimonies against him, that’s why the whole trial is being reopened.
It is not the place in this diary to get into the background of his conviction. The sexual issue and ending sexual violence is one of the hottest topics of our time and it is challenging to find out what is really the truth. Anyway, as far as I have been able to find out so far he did not use violence, did not force anyone to do anything, but he may have had too little knowledge of how much young women project onto him and how much this must be in the consciousness of a shaman. There are so many psychological factors at play here that often remain obscure, projections of all kinds, but also prejudices and moral biases shape the interpretations, so we have known for a long time that one cannot simply believe what the media report. I hardly direct my accusation against individual perpetrators, but against a wrongly organized social system, against a love system, in which truth and beauty between the sexes had to be concealed and in which the suppression of sexuality, an originally pure source, led to many abuses and acts of violence. However, to create enlightenment and build a system of trust where the truth can come to light, we consider extremely important.
The issue of who is a victim, who is a perpetrator, is a sensitive one. “Me too” – which of us women could not list it in our chain of experiences, situations where we felt sexually abused, where we felt oppressed by fear at the mercy of men’s assaults and where we were not able to set our clear boundaries. A large part of sexual rape will never see the light of day in the public world. In this sense, it is important that what has been hidden for so long finally comes to light. But is the truth really coming to light? We know today that the whole metoodebate is also misused politically, especially by right-wing political activists, so an originally healing concern is misused. In this way, the perhaps original goal of preventing sexual violence and more humanization and protection for violent crimes against women and children. Instead, the fire of hatred and mistrust between the sexes is rather stoked again.
Personally, I have come to know Taita Orlando as a very trustworthy and dedicated person, enough reason to stay in touch with him on behalf of GRACE and possibly contribute to the solution. In a sense, we are all victims of a misguided system. I never just go along with the judgment of others without questioning it, thank God Andrea is standing by my side with a lot of strength and Prsäenz. Without her this step would have been impossible. Together we decided not to get caught up in the undergrowth of the media wars, but to contact the Orlando Gaitan personally. We were so moved by the meeting that I guess I’ll have to take on the task of looking into it more deeply. In the following I will simply call him Taita, many also speak about him from his grandfather, Abuelo.
One of our greatest concerns is to end violence in the area of love and sexuality, so we will have to find out for ourselves what we believe to be true here. In any case, one thing is clear: the Taita case is being used for completely different political purposes and few are interested in finding out the truth in a humane sense. We decided to hear his own assessment of the situation to find out if and how we can help. It became a day that left its deep impressions in our souls, which we will not forget so soon. In the evening I can’t fall asleep – I have to speak, I have already sworn to myself as a child not to be silent when I see injustice. For me, this is not primarily about Taita, but about taking in and processing the impressions of a prison as a whole.
We were advised to arrive already at night, so that one does not have to stand in line for too long. Two women who are part of his community accompany us, without them we probably would not have made it to his place.
At five o’clock we are standing in front of the gates of the prison for political prisoners, a huge wing of buildings. In the background, the mountains glowing slightly from the first morning light, a magical backdrop. A woman greets us; she must have been waiting in line since one o’clock in the morning at the request of the women for a small payment so that we would not have to wait too long. Hundreds of women, some with children, stand outside the gates waiting to be let in. Some have spent the night there on sleeping mats.
A woman, a saleswoman at a small kiosk for tea and sweets, has a safe with her, where we are asked to hand in our things, bags, scarves, wallets, mobile phones, jewelry. We are only allowed to have our passports with us, no metal on our clothes or shoes, no metal supports on our brassieres. Deftly and nimbly, almost unnoticed, Andrea takes off her bra from under her clothes, she has done this many times before, she says with a laugh. The woman from the kiosk locks our things in a small cupboard. It’s an exercise in trust, handing over all the things to a perfect stranger, and we apply our power phrase: “Send trust ahead and only then touch.”
I can observe in myself how a field of mistrust pervades everything here and how one must really defend oneself against it. Distrust creeps into the subconscious in a flash. It dominates the field. You look 10 times more at your handbag than normal, almost unnoticed a fright moves in: “Where is my händy, where is my money?” I look at the woman’s face and know that I want to and will trust her.
So we stand in line, close together.
We are a little uncomfortable that we can go further forward in the queue just because we paid some money for it, which others can’t, but also know that we won’t get to Taita without it. The only thing we still have with us is the passport and a mask.
You are constantly pushed from behind and in front. Everyone wants to be first, which doesn’t make things any easier. “Being online” is now an absolute must. A woman who called us loud names in the beginning turns into our “friend” after a while. It was our calm way of responding to her that transformed her mood. From now on, she constantly gives us friendly signs. In front of me a mother with her son. The son treats her so affectionately, one has the impression that now already, about 10 years old, he wants to protect his mother from all evil.
Suddenly a hysterical screeching that moves through the queue. The occasion, a rat! Such a small innocent animal can cause mass hysteria!
“Everything is Wasudeva! This will be the power sentence for this day”. Another phrase that gives us guidance: “In God there is no waiting.” Hour after hour from one waiting line to the next.
Everyone gets a stamp. I get the 55 stamped on my arm. After about 2 hours we make it to passport control. The guard doesn’t find our number and says we can’t get in. We stay quiet and jet. Somehow we know inside that we will get in. Eventually he discovers the mistake, someone has entered a wrong passport number into the machine . We are allowed in, “just for this time,” he says.
The next line. Now we are divided into different areas, depending on which prison wing we have to go to. At some point it turns out that our whole line is in the wrong queue. Everyone moves over to the next line. Screeching goes through the crowd. To our right, a line where a collective fracas is developing. It’s close to a scuffle. Two women in the front start hitting each other. We remain in a very calm frequency and one has the impression that we have thereby a calming effect on the whole. The two women who are here with us also have a very nice and calm frequency.
Mass gatherings are the most challenging task for me to be able to stay really calm and centered here.
In the middle of the conversation, as we talk about finding the peace power within, one of them bursts into tears. She has lost her three-month-old baby. It got an infection during a treatment at the clinic and died from it. ” It’s a challenge to understand something about the deeper background of peace,” she says. “Life takes us all to school.”
Finally, we stand immediately vo the building where Taita is housed. He lives in a cell with three others. Gray walls in front of us, with only small slits where light can enter. There are small pieces of laundry hanging out, now and then you can see a face behind the opening. It took us five hours to get here.
We all have to sit down on chairs and a guard with a dog examines us to see if we are smuggling in any drugs. At least he is affectionate with the dog. Then come the x-rays and finally we have to hand in our passports. I receive the number 44 (I am accompanied on this journey by the double numbers – 55 – the abundance – 44 the Emprdringenim I Ching – the old Chinese wisdom book).
We walk through the concrete corridors, climb some stairs and upstairs the Taita is already standing and welcoming us. He looks the same as always, but has lost a lot of weight. He is accompanied by his “buddies”. A very warm embrace. I feel what a deep loyalty I feel to people I once “saw” and took into my heart. I feel that Andrea feels the same way.
We walk through the large hall where they have prepared one of the concrete tables with tablecloths. We brought a lot of food that could be purchased at the entrance.
Balloons are hung in the hall for the children. Everywhere the prisoners greet their wives and children. There are mattresses on the sides and many lie down on the mattresses and hold each other in their arms. It is enormously moving to witness this whole climate. Many of them are behind walls for life. They are mainly political prisoners, but also drug dealers.
Taita talks a lot about his own passage. “My life doesn’t stop because of that, it’s not ruined because they put me behind walls. I do my work wherever I am, I do what I believe in. I get along well with the comrades I share my cell with, including some guards. Many here get respect by creating fear in others, others by money, and still others by sharing and acting trustworthy.”
He seems to have succeeded in that. His buddies keep coming and asking if they need anything from us. With great devotion they serve us, you can tell they love and adore Taita. He still has great hope that he will get freedom again. He tells in many parables and Andrea has a great task to translate all this. Some things are so special that it is not always easy for her. There is so much going on at the same time, to take it all in, to follow the conversation and then also to translate it, that is a master class exam.
Basically, the statements from Taita always boil down to the same core message: “We are here to learn. The mind constantly interprets, it always thinks in patterns of separation. But behind that is a divine reality where nothing separate exists. We are here to transfom anger, fear, resentment and to accept and understand the oneness of all being. As long as we react in an identified way, it creates a lot of suffering in us and in others. Life itself, however, is oriented towards joy, even if we have to go through dark zones. Everything we do to others comes back to ourselves. The universe helps us to see and understand this. “