Garden Fragrance is Sometimes a Letter from Jorge


April 2014 165


Last night a bomb exploded on the veranda

But sounds of birds sweeten the earth this morning.

I hear the fragrant trees, look in the garden,

Find two silent clusters of ripe guavas.

-Lam Thi My Da

(translated from the Vietnamese by Martha Collins and Tay Dinh)

In days of protests and surveillance, of the coming to light of the 1, 186 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, of the 98% impunity for crimes of sexual violence against women in Colombia, this poem reminds me that hope and beauty also exist in this complicated world we call home.


Jorge Montes has been in jail for nine months now. His latest letter is an example of that impossible, seemingly incongruent beauty. Here are some exerts:

“I have called this process a holistic one, because it is based on peacefully establishing a permanent dialogue with the civil authorities of the state, in order to, in common cause, seek the development of our communities.  Even more so, I consider one element of the process the most important, which is the seeking of reconciliation of all the communities, victims of the armed conflict, since the enormous consequence of this scourge left  the destruction of the social fabric, of unity and common purpose, of the communities in our region.  To strengthen this unity, we have organized non-violet events:  sporting events with the support of IDERBOL (Sports Institute of Bolivar), inter-community meetings to analyze and build memory, community analysis of the crimes and violations committed before, during and after the conflict, finally concluding that we are all shores of the same river,destroying the great barrier of resentment and hate that the conflict left between our communities.

I am 38 years old, and I have proudly lived all my life in the rural region of my municipality, where I am known by all of the inhabitants, definitely not as a delinquent, but rather as a known defender of the rights of the communities most marginalized in my region.

There is prowling within me a great worry, that even after this conspiracy, the Colombian State still has a tool that it can use against me.  It can still assassinate me, as the armed forces have done with many campesino leaders in different regions of the country; from my region I can list the assassination of Luis Gomez in the municipality of Coloso, Sucre and that of Patricio Florez in the community of Tierra Grata in the municipality of el Carmen de Bolivar.  These leaders, among others, were presented as members of the guerrilla killed in combat, and afterwards it was proved that they were community leaders.  Because of cases like these, it is not strange to me that behind this conspiracy against me there are high-ranking members of the armed forces.

I inform the public  that if such a thing would occur to me, I would be another false positive, one of the thousand million that the armed forces have committed in complicity with the state.

I do not have to say that I am innocent, because you were the ones who saw me be born and grow, and know all the things I have done which testify to my innocence.

I also have to tell you that I have the joy of inner peace, because I have no remorse in my conscience, since I have never been a part of any armed group, and I will never be, since my weapons are the Colombian laws that allow me to struggle for the well-being of the most marginalized.

These terrible and inhuman events have filled me:

  1. With tolerance:  Because I do not hate and will not hate my oppressors;vengeance is of God, and God will pay each of us according to our deeds.
  2. With patience:  Because I have learned to have patience and manage my despair.
  3. With faith:  Because I have complete confidence that I walk free and with my head held high.
  4. With love:  Because I have no thirst for vengeance.
  5. With inner peace:  I think this is the most important, because my conscience does not accuse me and I am convinced that I have never participated and never will in acts that will cause me to repent and much less any that will affect those around me.

There are many positive values and principles that accompany me, and fill me with optimism.  My innocence tells me that I cannot worry, and that it is necessary that these things pass.

From my place of confinement I send greetings and the greatest gratitude to all those who have accompanied me, have supported me, and above all, believe in me.

I ask God for a special blessing for my oppressors and that they and their families prosper, that blessings be their daily companions.

I will not faint because he who perseveres, reaches the goal.  I say goodbye with this blessing:  Blessed are those who are condemned unjustly.

I send a hug of solidarity and I invite you to continue struggling to defend our rights, which is hard but not impossible.

To triumph is my objective, and if I triumph, we all triumph, because I am with you, as you are with me.  If God is with us, then who is against us?

Blessings from heaven,


Jorge Luis Montes Hernandez”



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