In Montreal, mourning the peace deal that wasn't

Our resident Colombian reflects on a day that shattered his hopes for his country's future.

I woke up on Sunday filled with nerves and hope. I was also ready to write about my day. In the morning I took note of the cool, cloudy weather here in Montreal and how it reminded me of Sundays back home in Bogota, there’s a reason why we call it la nevera! I walked to the consulate and I saw the office building packed beyond what I had ever seen, officials inside saith they had never seen such a large turnout for any election.

I voted and I got emotional, I didn’t know how if I would keep it together. But once I got outside the consulate there was a group playing live music; the Colombian classics:

People listened and danced and dreamed, I guess, of going home to a country at peace. I stayed there for a while, taking it in. It was weird but it was comforting to hear others play live music and dance in the middle of an empty downtown.

Suddenly, we heard a booming noise in the sky. It was a fighter jet coming for the aerial show of a football game in the city and we were all absolutely paralyzed, much like Timochenko live on camera in Cartagena when an air force plane flew over the crowd. A few minutes later another fighter plane flew by and we all enjoyed the show and the music kept on playing.

I talked to others who had just voted: Adriana Barrera is young woman and works as an accountant. She said that her reason to vote YES were her nieces and nephews, she wanted a better country for them. She also mentioned that coming to vote felt like the granito de arena she could give to make that happen.  Julián, who is a logistics manager says that his vote is to disarm the Farc and that they have been “an excuse for everything.” They emigrated for Colombia for better job opportunities.I tried to talk to others who were less enthusiastic but they declined to be interviewed.

It started to rain so I went home to have lunch and wait for the results. Once it was 4 p.m. Colombian time it was just a whirlwind;  early results coming in quickly showed it was tight; later results gave the NO option a small lead which they kept. This, I wasn’t prepared for. I hoped for a yes victory and I was prepared for a decisive NO vote, but not for such uncertainty.

I felt shattered that my side lost, that my vote for less violence and an agreement a thought acceptable was defeated. But mainly I felt worried and scared about the limbo we were thrust into. The results are officially a rejection of the question but politically it’s much, much messier.

I’m sad, but more than that I’m tired. I was tired of living in a country amid an armed conflict, even if it was something that happened mostly in the background for me. The conflict has never touched me directly, fortunately, but I remember how it was just part of life growing up. I remember being scared of going to visit my grandmother’s house just outside Bogota because I heard the rumour that guerrillas were in a nearby town.

I remember that once an English teacher asked for things we thought were scary and my friend answered “guerrillas” and the teacher thought my friend said “gorillas”; of course it makes no sense for a small kid to be afraid of groups of real armed guys who really are nearby in their country instead of a big scary animal in a movie or book!

Yes I’m sad. And disappointed in many ways seeing how close the vote was. But most of all I’m tired. I wanted today to be the day when I could rest that bit of my body and that bit of my mind, but no luck. We’ll have to go on another day and see what happens and how this story will come to some sort of resolution. Right now it just seems too much to process and it’s too much to live with condensed in just one day.

As the traditional vallenato goes, my hope was “que se acabe la vaina”. If there’s anyone who gets me I guess it’s you guys.