"The Patriarch of the Emeralds" Víctor Manuel Quintero showed enormous generosity in his fight against the violence that shook the region where these jewels are found in Colombia. He died in 2015 at 84 years of age. Photos, courtesy: Richard Agudelo and Daniel Manosalva

Víctor Manuel Quintero “The Patriarch of the Emeralds”, once one of the richest miners in Colombia, fought until the day of his death to regain peace in the eastern region of his country. Greed had written a story of horror, crime, and displacement. About 30 years ago, Víctor Manuel Quintero had to flee with his own family to save their lives, which have been stripped of their lands that keep the green treasure.

On December 18, 2016, however, the Colombian government will return the lands to his family; about 900 hectares after the Victims Unit recognized him as displaced in 2014. The Patriarch died in July 2015 at the age of 84, a victim of a stroke.

His widow Ana Elvira Ruiz and her son Wilson Quintero will receive the lands located between Cundinamarca and Boyacá in central Colombia. As soon as it is received, the family will turn over this land to the mining associations of the area, in this way they will fulfill the express desire of their father.

“If my father were alive when the land is returned back to the family, he would have said that the task was accomplished, that is, the exercise of which he always spoke, the exercise of peace. He would have been happy, “said Wilson Quintero on Thursday from Colombia to the New Herald.” The same is the feeling of our whole family, because we are going to be benefiting many people.”

By the end of the decade of the 80s, the drug traffic had lined its nets towards the fields of emeralds. It added violence, theft, blood and suffering.

The Quintero’s had to be exiled.

For many years, the emerald treasure was a curse for Colombia, which accounts for 55 percent of the world’s jewelry production.

In a report in the newspaper El Espectador de Bogotá, the Patriarch’s efforts to maintain peace in the emerald zone are described. Before the violence had ravaged the region, he had donated to the workers his mines of Peñas Blancas in order to have equity in the zone, and that the wealth would reach the neediest people.

“Those who have investigated the history of the exploitation of the emeralds in Colombia admit that Victor Quintero moved away from the blood bath that lined the mining region from the past 60’s and, in contrast, in the 80’s was one of the people who tried to build bridges to pacify the region and prevent it from remaining in the hands of the armed gangs or drug lords, “El Espectador wrote on December 11. “In the midst of the war unleashed by Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, Gilberto Molina, Víctor Carranza and Ramiro Vanoy, which claimed the lives of some 3,500 people and an incalculable number of displaced persons, the Patriarch of the Emeralds ended up exiled.”

Since then, things have changed a lot in Colombia and this land restitution is, in a sense part of the way the country has taken to recover the peace.

“This is the beginning of a new job for us to find the much desired peace,” commented Wilson Quintero. “The effect of this land restitution will be equity, it will help to strengthen the love and belonging to our region and our lands.”

According to Wilson Quintero, this delivery will benefit some 1,800 people from the General Association of Miners of the East and the Association Mineros del Guavio, who from now on will own the land and can benefit together with their families.

The governor of Boyacá, Carlos Andrés Amaya, as well as the Senator from the Democratic Pole, Jorge Enrique Robledo and some leaders of the region will participate in the ceremony of delivery of the lands to the family of the Patriarch. Then Wilson Quintero will give it to the miners to close once and for all a chilling nightmare.

This story has been reflected in the documentary El Patriarca de las Esmeraldas, under the direction of journalist Richard Agudelo (Sublime Producciones), as an unprecedented and unique testimony about a tragedy of more than three decades.

Wilson Quintero does not know what the future may bring after this land is returned and dedicated to its people, but what he is sure of is that they provide a grain of sand to solve the social problems of the region and the country.

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