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Death of a Brother


Alberto narrates how his older brother, who was mentally ill, died during a military operation.


The army was always after us. The base groups, as we called them, always attracted the military operations. They would uproot and settle somewhere else. That’s how we moved around, like nomads. But... Thank God we are still here to tell the story. Some of us are still here, but others didn’t have the same luck. There was an operation in La Cañada, which forced people out of there. Not that many people died. Maybe five or six were killed at most. Well, one of my brothers was left there. We had already buried the youngest one there. Once when he came to town they got him. He died on the hillside while climbing up to La Cañada.

Why did they shoot him?

Yeah, they shot him here. We got him out of there but it didn't matter, he died halfway up the hill. At least we got to bury him there. My other brother, the oldest one, he stayed behind during the operation, but that was because he was a little crazy in the head. When they came, I tried to get him out of there. But he had always been a bit crazy. He smoked marijuana. My parents didn’t notice. When they finally found out, he was already into it. That affected his head. So when the operation came I tried to get him out of there, but I couldn't. Sometimes he would get very aggressive. He would go into the house, it was like this one but smaller, made of adobe. He would go into the corner and he would just stand there while the planes flew overhead strafing. Like it was nothing. Meanwhile I was covering myself in a bunker with my pregnant wife. My sister-in-law, who was also pregnant, came by and asked, "Alberto, what are you doing? The Atlacatl is coming, they’re less than a block away, they’re coming!" So I said, "You go, go with Maribel, I’ll catch up with you, I’m going to go back for my brother." Oh my God! I went inside and he was standing there as the roof tiles were falling and shattering, bullets flying from the helicopters and planes that were strafing. But he couldn't be reasoned with. I grabbed his hand three times, I tried to pull him out into the yard, there was a stone fence about where the end of this corridor is, at the entrance. I pulled him out by force, I wanted to get him out so badly I wrapped myself around him and threw myself down. I could see the soldiers coming, but he got away from me and went back to the same corner of the house. I pulled him out three times. But I could feel them getting closer. They would have gotten me too. "No, little brother," I told him, "God help you because I have no other choice." What else could I do?