As kids, we are taught to differentiate between right and wrong, yet every single day we debate upon choosing good over evil. In theory, the older we get the easier it is to distinguish between the two, but we know that in practice it’s not always that way. The sad truth is that we are so accustomed to hear stories of the triumph of evil up to the point that it surprises us whenever someone does the right thing.
In the spring of 2009 in my native Paraguay, the Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo (EPP), a guerrilla group trained by the Colombian FARC, kidnapped a local estanciero. Fidel Zavala came from an upper-class family that owned a few estates in the countryside. Zavala was kidnapped from his farmhouse in Concepción, one of the country’s poorest departments, and the EPP asked for a five million dollar ransom.
Right before he was liberated, in the summer of 2010, one of the last bargains of the negotiation was that the Zavala family had to give away 30 cows worth of meat to three poor communities as “courtesy of the EPP.” Through this blackmail, the EPP was trying to justify their extortion by sharing the proceeds with the underprivileged and claiming they were doing it in the name of a “social good.”
The people of the Chacarita, the slums located in downtown Asunción, were the first ones to receive the courtesy meat. In three hours, 3,500 packs of 2-3kg. of meat were distributed. While members of the Zavala family supervised the delivery process (which cost them $10,000), residents of the Chacarita thanked them and ironically mentioned how much they wished Fidel would be liberated. As if two truckloads of free beef weren’t enough, 300 people still complained about the shortage of the product.
Two days later, the distribution was scheduled for the indigenous Mbya Guaraní community in Concepción, and to our surprise, they refused to accept anything associated to the extortion. The mind-blowing part of the story is that while they were the only group to decline the courtesy meat, they were by far the poorest. Without electricity, running water, or wild animals left to hunt, they showed the world the true meaning of integrity.
The Mbya Guaranies set a powerful example in a country plagued by poverty, corruption, and social strives. We need more people like them in this world that stand up to what they believe in—even when they are going through hardship. This story taught us two lessons: 1) there is no excuse whatsoever for choosing evil over good, and 2) we must cherish the existence of the indigenous populations, even when we don’t technically think of them when we hear the word “Paraguayans.”
GCL Class of 2012, Paraguay.
Andrea is an idealist, dreamer, activist and social entrepreneur. Born in Paraguay but raised as a world citizen.