Yesterday at the National Library, while flipping through Medellin newspapers archived from February 2001, I found a series of short articles that made me think of when I wrote for the El Paso Times. Once a week a reporter there would write a half dozen or so pieces about elementary school students that had made the honor roll. The stories were short and basic – mostly providing the kid’s name and a small photo of him or her, and the parents’ names – and we reporters found it a mundane task to write them up. Of course we understood that it was a way for the paper to promote good educational habits, but we never wanted it to be our week to do them.
The format of the series in the Medellin paper was about the same, but instead of promoting education, the pieces were an attempt to reach the parents or relatives of the kids. They were orphans, and unless someone responded to the articles, they were going to continue to be the rest of their lives. Sad as that is, what struck me harder was how matter-of-fact the paper was printing these notices. They weren’t anywhere near the front page, nor was there really any story. It made me think about how many people must have been displaced, disappeared and/or killed in the conflict here, and how many of them left kids behind, lost and alone. I don’t have the answer off hand – Casey probably has an idea how to find out so I’ll addend this post later – but I can tell you from seeing the paper that there were so many that orphans became about as interesting as making the elementary-school honor roll.