MATACHO, THE BANDIT


Rosalba Velásco -alias "Sergeant Matacho"- was a young peasant bandit born in the south of Colombia and one of the first women recruited in the fifties by early guerrilla movement. Mother of a two years old girl, she witnesses her husband´s cruel death in the hands of the police and she is overwhelmed by suffering. Seized by mental trauma and confusion, she assumes a role that is traditionally assigned to men. The leading role of a warrior, with an aggressive and courageous behaviour, challenging pain, suffering and fear. She unwillingly dettaches from the archetypes commonly attributed to her gender, such as empathy, gentleness, solidarity, passivity or obedience and she marvels, dazzles, amazes and confounds her fellow fighters and their enemies.


Matacho´s behavior does not respond to ideological formulations. It challenges sexual and social stereotypes. In the presence of emotional and physical devastation, Rosalba Velásco reconstructs her identity based on a larger and absolute entity: violence as the midwife of death. She does not assume the role of a victim or that of a helpless refugee, which are traditionally assigned to women, the elderly and children. Nor is she paralized; she rebels and violates law and order, surpassing that which is usual and expected. As Matacho, the bandit, she annihilates and destroys lives while bearing children in her womb.


Rosalba´s life and death were led by an irrational need for self defense. Having been deprived of affection, self confidence and security by the political and military violence, she stands as a representative of millions of victims and of a self destructive way of life. Hers is the paradox of a woman who kills as she affirms life in birth and she becomes the embodiment of a tragedy. The tragedy of a nation.


The war in Colombia is not an extraordinary phenomenon. It is the "natural" environment framing the lives of four generations. It permeates the state and the military. It affects social life, politics, economics, and religion. It lies at the core of the lives of men, women and children. And this is what Sergeant Matacho´s outlaw activity testimonies. It rises from the past as a phenomenon closely linked to the lives of Colombians who, for years, have had to deal with violence as a permanent companion. Violence as the master, the mother, the friend and the teacher of children and adults. Violence as the shadow and shelter of men and women nurtured by pain, mistrust and resentment. Violence as an everyday language and predominant form of social, political and cultural expression. Violence as the preferred insrument of power and the only recourse available to those who suffer it. Violence as a source of meaning and identity for both the individual and the community. And that is why the story of Matacho, the woman, the mother, the lover, the teacher, the warrior and the murderer, stands and deeply question, amazes and puzzles us.


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