'Tirofijo', the founder of the Farc who was born in Génova, Quindío, and lived on the run

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Also known by the alias 'Manuel Marulanda,' this peasant joined the armed revolution amidst the country's political violence. This is the story of the man who carried a towel over his shoulder and more than 40 years of armed conflict behind him


María Paula González

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‘Tirofijo’, the founder of the Farc who was born in Génova, Quindío, and lived on the run

Illustration by Infobae

Many people remember Pedro Antonio Marín Marín by the alias 'Manuel Marulanda Vélez' or 'Tirofijo', and he has been known as the founder and head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the guerrilla that for nearly 60 years caused pain and victims throughout the national territory.

From the life of the 'oldest guerrilla in history', which was spent largely fleeing from the authorities in the middle of the jungle, few details are known, but over the years it has been possible to establish what motivated Marín, a farmer from Quindío, to take up arms with a revolutionary idea.

To have an idea of ​​how little is known about 'Manuel Marulanda', one only has to start with his date of birth, of which he only knew that it had been in May 1930. However, depending on the source in which consult, the date can be moved from May 12, 1928 to May 12, 1932, the last one could be the most reliable, since it was the one given at the time by the father of the guerrilla, Pedro Pablo Marín Quinceno.

< p class="paragraph">Beyond the date, the truth is that Marín was born into a humble family in the municipality of Génova, Quindío, a place where from a very young age he worked in the fields and sought his livelihood as a minor selling meat, sweets, tending shops and as a builder. Despite having been a good student, he dropped out of school in fifth grade, at age 13, for financial reasons.

‘Tirofijo’, the founder of the Farc who was born in Génova, Quindío, and lived on the run

(AFP) Photo by Manuel Marulanda in the 1990s the 60's in the middle of an attack on the Marquetalia camp, in Tolima

From an early age Manuel Marulanda knew what violence was when he belonged to a family from Ceylon, in the < b>Cauca Valley, who fled from the threats that people of different political opinions exerted on them. Marín's family had embraced the ideology of the Liberal Party at a time when liberals and conservatives murdered each other.

Through his grandfather, Ángel Marín, 'Manuel Marulanda' had not only learned the liberal slogans and inherited a profound rejection of the conservatives, but he had also learned the arts of war.

In fact, the commotion over the assassination of the liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán lived in that placeand that unleashed the Bogotazo in April 1948. There he witnessed the clashes between liberals and conservatives that left several of his relatives as murder victims. As the CEV found, “on October 27, 1949, the Pájaros de El Cóndor, in revenge for the death of some conservatives during El Bogotazo in the Ceylon area, raided that township and killed 150 people”.

Since then, liberals and people from the Colombian left began to form armed groups to 'defend themselves' and that was Marín's entry into the revolutionary struggle. Fleeing from that situation in the Valley, the then 20-year-old returned to his native Génova, Quindío, after spending six days in the jungle of the Coffee Region. But upon returning to his hometown, he realized that the violent actions of Los Pájaros had reached there as well.

So Marín decided to form his own group in Quindío, as he described it in his autobiographical notes quoted by the Truth Commission:

“In Genoa I met with about ten cousins, with Modesto Ávila and his children and with the González de San Juan. So we decided to organize an armed group to begin to confront this violence. Very soon the rumor spread about what we were up to and boys began to arrive willing to fight. It was in a short time that we were able to form a nucleus of fifty men, but unarmed men. And that was the next step, to get us the weapons.”

‘Tirofijo’, the founder of the Farc who was born in Génova, Quindío, and lived in Géoa, Quind’ fleeing

Manuel Marulanda and Mono Jojoy

Through his uprising in arms, Marín got closer to the agrarian organizations that resisted against the conservatives and landowners of the country. Meanwhile, he was beginning to be recognized among the left and the communists as 'Tirofijo', an alias that he had earned through the military training he received from the Colombian Communist Party for his good aim . Right there he adopted the alias 'Manuel Marulanda' wanting to pay homage to a communist activist assassinated some time ago.

Throughout his years as leader of the armed resistance to 'Tirofijo', the Colombian authorities followed him across the sky, rivers and land, and even reported him discharged on several occasions. One of the first times that the alleged death of Marulanda was discussed was in 1964, when heavy bombardments occurred at the Marquetalia camp in Tolima. Thus, for several years, after some combats, the possible death of the guerrilla was rumored.

'Tirofijo' also showed little interest in peace; however, on both occasions he gave up the processes early. In 1982, he agreed with Belisario Betancur for a cessation of hostilities and the creation of the Unión Patriótica party, but the beginning of the assassination of the militants of the FARC political movement led to the refusal to continue the negotiations.

Then in 1998 'Manuel Marulanda'He started a peace process with Andrés Pastrana, creating a demilitarized zone to start the talks. But there the famous event of the 'empty chair' took place, when Marín left Pastrana planted in the place.

Despite the attempts of several governments to reach an agreement on make peace with the guerrillas or, failing that, capture their maximum leader 'Tirofijo', the true story of the founder of the Farc indicates that he died in the jungle, not under an attack, but of old age. In 2008, again the rumors about the death of the guerrilla appeared in the press; however, as on previous occasions, there were doubts about whether it was a reality.

Finally, with an official statement from the FARC it was revealed that, indeed, Manuel Marulanda had died in a guerrilla camp on March 26, but contrary to what many thought, the man did not die in the middle of a combat or was discharged by the country's Armed Forces. Tirofijo died of health complications that led to heart problems.