Doris Valenzuela Angulo was an Afro-descendant social activist, leader and human rights defender from Buenaventura, Colombia. She was part of Communities Building Peace in the Territories (CONPAZ), a national network of organizations in communities affected by armed conflict that advocate for non-violence and socio-environmental justice.
Doris defied constant paramilitary violence and pressures from mega projects to displace her community and state collusion. Faced with one of the most difficult contexts in her country, she played a leadership role in an unprecedented initiative of non-violent resistance called Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space, an urban place for community cohesion, safety, creativity and collective action.
This unique non-violent struggle of the families that belonged to Puente Nayero Humanitarian Space, attracted attention and support from both local and international agencies. By September 2014, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had granted precautionary protection measures to the community ordering the Colombian State to adopt necessary measures to preserve their lives and personal integrity. However, the threats and violence from the paramilitaries continued. Doris focused her energies on preventing forced recruitment of children and young people by the neo-paramilitaires, continuing on despite the murder of her son Cristian Dainer Aragón Valenzuela in July 2015. Doris also became a target, continuously receiving threats for her activism and the work she did.
The continued aggression and threats against her life forced Doris to leave Colombia. She was residing in Spain from February 2017 to February 2018, as part of the Amnesty International temporary protection program for human rights defenders at risk. In April 2018, Doris was murdered in Murcia, Spain by her ex-partner. She was only 39 years old.
"Doris, spending a whole year with you has taught us how a person can have the ability to transform and generate hope in the face of deeply negative and devastating events during your life...We continue with our commitment in the defense of all human rights. Your courage and your light will always guide us.” - Montserrat Román, Amnesty International Grupo La Palma
Excerpt from “Words for Doris Valenzuela Angulo” by Elsa López
"..You knew it. You always knew. And in spite of everything you stood firm against so many injustices, so many miseries, so much persecution. You stood up, haughty and fierce, against those who wanted to make you again abandon your hopes, humble yourself and surrender. Standing up you cried out for your freedom and ours that was yours. Nothing and no one paralyzed your efforts to change the world and make it more generous and livable. You, live among us, more alive today than ever among us despite death. Always live by your gestures, your courage, your greatness when crying for a promised land that you came to invoke with each of your cries for all the deserts you inhabited. You. Always alive. Doris Valenzuela Angulo.
They are only words. I know. I know it too. But the words unite us, protect us, give us strength and encouragement to continue walking towards the light that you defended so much…”