Colombia’s bullet-proof tailor

There may be few advantages to living in a country with an international reputation for violence, kidnapping and murder, but a Colombian tailor appears to have found one. Based in Bogota, Miguel Caballero’s eponymous company constructs clothes which help protect the wearer against bullets, knives and other weapons. As well as domestic customers such as Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, Mr Caballero has made good use of Colombia’s notoriety to build up an international base – now boasting President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and the Prince of Spain as clients. The selling point? “If this products functions in Colombia, you have the guarantee it will stop any type of bullet in any place in the world,” the tailor told BBC World Service’s Outlook Programme. And the security conscious who also fear frumpiness need not worry. Mr Caballero’s clothes, he declares, combine protection with panache.

Lighten up
Mr Caballero said that the idea came to him while still at university. He was inspired when he saw the lack of protective clothing worn by the bodyguards of one of his fellow students. “All the time, those guys did not use the best, because it was very uncomfortable and very heavy,” he explained. “They used leather jackets and suede jackets. I came up with a way to put the two characteristics together – security and fashion.” Miguel Caballero began by making bullet-proof leather and suede jackets, but the company has now expanded to other clothes, including raincoats, blazers, and other tops.

Colombian police
Also available are protective shorts – specially designed underwear which protects against knife attacks to sell to prison wardens. “After we designed this line, we made a T-shirt that stops the knife in the same way,” Mr Caballero said. He said that the clothes are designed for different people – VIPs, bodyguards, and those who wanted to dress safely but also casually. The weight of a protective jacket has been brought down from 4.5 kilos 10 years ago to 1.2. It can withstand ammunition from weapons including a 9mm, a .44 Magnum, and a 3.57 revolver. The products are tested by the staff themselves, in what Mr Caballero – called “demonstrations.” He has himself been shot at in three such tests. “All the new employees have to take part in a real demonstration,” he explained. “You have to believe in our products.”


Among the other Daylight items in the show are performance accoutrements, such as dance masks and leg bands, recalling the transforming spectacle of humans who summon mythology into their mortal being and breathe continuity into their living stories. A marvelous Bamana warrior’s tunic from the BMA’s holdings, one of the most appealing I’ve encountered, is laden with gre-gre, or charms, protected front and rear. Fetish power in African culture is hierarchical. If one dons a warrior tunic in preparation to defend or subjugate an opponent–who also wears and carries fetish charms–his gre-gre are attached to assure his success. They are to the assailant spirits what a spear is to the body. Sewn-on mica or mirror bits reflect evil and fear back to the rival; pouches of herbs, or the hair, bones, or nails of a strong animal or a fierce warrior, or even a loved one, function to overwhelm the force of the opponent’s fetishes. And, lest we forget, Roman Catholic churches honor this same tradition, placing a small fragment of a saint in a reliquary to bless and empower the structure and those who worship in it, or providing their faithful with scapulars–prayer pouches to wear around the neck.

In Foreign Parts: Magic of Mayi Mayi proves a potent force for Congo’s warriors
BY Declan Walsh  /  8 February 2003

Inside a church nestling among the hills of eastern Congo, a venerable warrior gives a rare audience. He is talking about politics, war and why he is invincible to gunfire. “I am a Mayi Mayi general so I carry the gris-gris [magic charms],” declares General Jeannot Ruharara, a whiskery, weatherbeaten man. “They protect against snakes, lightning, disappearance – and, of course, bullets.” He has a wooden staff in one hand and a mobile phone in the other, but the tools of his magic are pinned to his chest like medals of honour. It is a selection worthy of a Shakespearean cauldron – tail of buffalo, claw of eagle and horn of antelope but also cola nuts, dirty feathers and plastic beads. He reaches into the hairy confusion, pulls out a dark phial, and smiles. “This is the maji”, he says. The maji – Swahili for water – had been blessed at a ceremony in the mountains. It will be sprinkled on his troops moments before they enter battle, he says, and then they will be invincible to enemy bullets. “Even shells and rockets,” he chuckles.

The four century old struggle for the Americas, as waged by the original inhabitants, often involved the use of magic. In 1519, when the conquistadors were encamped on the Mexican coastline, Montezuma’s first attempts to thwart the white intruder were magical. The emperor’s wizards infiltrated the camp of Hernando Cortes and attempted to use magic against the Spaniards. The spells of the Aztec wizards failed; they returned to Montezuma II and stated, “We are not equal contenders.” Amerindian magic failed to stop the conquistadors.

The English colonizers also experienced Native American resistance by magical means. The early English settlement of Jamestown, Virginia, had its existence challenged by the powerful Powhatan confederacy. Powhatan priests were in the forefront of the conflicts because of their alleged ability to see the future, to discern secrets, to change the weather, and to use magic to fight enemies. In 1611, a battle ensued between English arquebussers and Amerindian bowmen. An Amerindian priest saw arrows bounce off the English armor, and seeing that the English guns needed sparks to fire, he decided to help his side with magic. “The wonder-worker ran the length of the battlefield, rattle in hand, and attempted to invoke the rain gods. Unfortunately, the only rain observed by the English fell miles away, keeping the English powder dry, and the Amerindian bowmen at a most serious disadvantage!

In 1621, Nemattanew, a Powhatan war leader, claimed immunity from English gunfire, using a magic body oil. Nemattanew was fatally wounded, but to preserve the myth of immunity for his followers, he requested to be buried among the English. Despite the inability of magic oil to stop lead balls, the Powhatan belief in their shamans’ magic remained unshaken, and belief in divining an enemy’s intention was high. Ever slowly, as the colonists gained the upper hand in the Eastern woodlands, the shamans lost face in the eyes of their people because of their continued failure to combat European weapons and diseases. The shamans thought their magic failed because the English were “strange.”

The Amerindian use of magic in warfare continued until the end of the nineteenth century. The Western Apache employed charms to keep bullets from harming their warriors. The leaders of war parties believed that their protective charms, as they rode ahead of their men, would keep the bullets from going past them to harm the warriors bringing up the rear. These practices weren’t new among the Amerindians. Specifically, shamans were thought to be immune to bullets; they were even thought to have the ability to catch bullets! However, magic charms couldn’t protect Indian warriors from modern military arms.

The Amerindian belief in magic lost battles. During the summer of 1857, this was evident with a major Cheyenne defeat along the Solomon River. A troop of United States cavalry, three hundred strong, faced an Indian band of equal number. The commanding army officer expected the Indians to flee, but the mounted warriors had washed their hands in a magic lake. A shaman had promised that the lake’s waters would protect the warriors from bullets. The cavalrymen charged with sabers and the braves fled the battlefield. Why? The magical water shielded the warriors from bullets, not the cavalrymen’s unsheathed sabers!

How much of the Amerindian resistance was driven by a belief in the magic power of shamans is the subject of heated debate. The historical evidence points to the inefficacy of the seers, and the shamans, to alter a tragic fate by the use of charms, or any other sympathetic magic. There can be no better example of the tragedy brought about by magical thinking than the 1890 American Indian battle at Wounded Knee. Nearly two hundred Indian men, women, and children were felled by the Hotchkiss guns of the U.S. Army, despite the alleged supernatural ability of “ghost shirts” to ward off bullets.

From Simbas to Ninjas: Congo’s Magic Warriors
BY Richard Petraitis  /  2003

In 2002, a lightly-armed band of Congolese rebels attacked a capital city airport in a desperate bid to seize a vital military target. They wore magic charms across their bare chests to ward off government bullets. A firefight erupted with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) soldiers who shredded any belief of magical protection for the Congolese rebels. The “Ninjas,” as they called themselves, were killed, one by one, going down in a hail of lead. Sixty believers in paranormal powers soon lay dead, or dying, across the blood-stained runways.[1] Once more, witchcraft, protective charms, and magic spells, proved fruitless against modern military arms.

Despite History’s long record of defeats for those who embrace magic as martial strategy, young African men still line up as recruits in answer to the witch doctor’s siren call for magic wars. This small scale, urban, Ninja rebellion recently wound down with the Ninja rebels either making peace with the current regime, or choosing to die in street battles. However, the dangers from those believing they can effect violent political change, via paranormal powers, still confront the Peoples of the Congo. Even more urgent for the embattled Kinshasha regime, the Congo’s eastern provinces are being moved toward a state of complete anarchy by the war waged by a magic militia called the Mai-Mai (translated as “powerful water” in Swahili). These teenage, antigovernment rebels hail from a primitive society of tribal hunters. The Mai-Mai rebels are a manifestation of an ailing society rooted in animism and witchcraft beliefs.

Since August of 1998, a rebellion against the Kinshasha government has raged across the vast expanse that is the Congo. Several African nations were immediately drawn into the vortex of a bloody civil war within the DRC. Directly, and indirectly, nearly 2.5 million lives were lost before the fighting subsided. In 2002, an official withdrawal of foreign soldiers refueled a massive struggle for territory and resources between local rebel armies and militias.[2]

This war torn area is fertile in animistic beliefs, giving birth to the now infamous “Mai-Mai” militia movement. The child soldiers of the Mai-Mai believe they are immune to combat death because of their magical ability to repel bullets–after fighters are anointed with protective water nostrums by their witch doctors! Members of this magic militia also believe other weaponry fired at them, such as rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells, will fail to cause them harm. Why? Because the Mai-Mai rebels believe, assured by magic men of the village that such airborne projectiles will turn into water. These tribesmen believe so fervently in the sacred water’s supernatural protection that they sport water-related objects, such as shower hoses or drain plugs, while marching into battle! Crowns made from green vines are worn into battle as an added magical aid to achieve invisibility.[3]

Despite the promises of village witch doctors, the gods of war have not been kind to these young fighters. Many young rebels have been mown down by automatic weapons fire when bullets, fired their way, failed to transform into harmless drops of H2O. The usual excuses for battlefield fatalities given by the Mai-Mai cadres to any wavering recruits is that the deceased parties failed to observe all the necessary special rituals. Mai-Mai cadres also excuse battlefield deaths as accidental by claiming Mai-Mai bullets gone astray can’t be stopped by the same magic![4] Many of the young Mai-Mai rebels have little education in an area of the globe pregnant with belief in spells and spirits; they are the perfect malleable recruits for men like Mai-Mai commander Joseph Padiri–who currently controls an area three times the size of Rwanda![5] Minds that embrace irrational beliefs are subject to manipulation by charismatic opportunists who recruit children into their conflicts. Mere boys toting rifles and wearing magic charms, at times stoked on hemp and cocaine, the Mai-Mai recruits dream of the ultimate victory promised to them by village elders and witch doctors alike, but often find death instead.

Mai-Mai fighters, who hold a fierce reputation as ritual cannibals, usually engage their enemies by entering a battle with singing and dancing, secure in their magical beliefs of protection from danger. Confidence, irrational or not, has been a factor in this particular conflict, sometimes playing on the fears of the opposition soldiers. According to an Associated Press (AP) report, one military commander even thought it necessary to trot a captive Mai-Mai boy out for public execution in order to vanquish his soldiers’ fear of Mai-Mai supernatural invincibility.[6] But any Mai-Mai gains in warfare can be credited to the Western science that produced their small arms, and perhaps also to the reckless bravery of these witchcraft warriors – not tribal magic!

Unbelievably, the Mai-Mai originally fought with bows and arrows at the start of their nearly ten year old rebellion. When magic water, and oils, failed to completely protect the fighters, as promised by the tribal magic men, astute militia commanders probably decided some modern arms might help the cause. However, the Mai-Mai fighters aren’t the only magic warriors to bring the horrors of warfare and accompanying atrocities into the lives of the Eastern Congo’s civilians.

In January of 2003, credible reports surfaced of a rebel group committing atrocities against the Pygmy Peoples of the eastern DRC. A UN commission further verified these atrocities to include eating the body parts of murdered Pygmies to “gain strength” (that is obtaining the life “energy” of an enemy for enhancement of supernatural battlefield strength by the ingestion of key human organs such as the human heart; a practice tied to witchcraft beliefs prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa).[7] Witnesses have exposed the rebel groups involved in these witchcraft-inspired crimes as the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), headed by Jean-Pierre Bemba, and the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD-N), led by Roger Lumbala.[8]

Some readers may ask, “How can these events still be occurring in the Twenty-First Century?” The reasons for the magic wars in central Africa may lie in a complex mixture of cultural, societal, and religious forces. Though it may be hard to ascertain all the causes of supernaturally-based wars, I know, by being a student of world events, this is not a first time such wars have exploded in the Congo. Nor will it be the last.

In July, 1964, a rebellion began in the former French Congo (Eastern Congo) ignited by the abuses of the newly established Congolese central government. The cadres of the rebel movement were leftist in ideology, but most of the rank and file was composed of spear-toting tribesmen from the Kivu and Orientale provinces. Many of the tribesmen were illiterate and they came from a tradition steeped in primitive animist beliefs. Rebels were promised immunity to bullets by witch doctors. The tribesmen were told by the magic men they would be transformed into “Simbas” (the Swahili word for lions) when entering battle.[9] Astonishingly, the Simbas managed to intimidate two heavily-armed battalions of government commandos into a retreat without battle. The victorious Simbas began to capture local capitals and soon, within weeks, half the Congo was in their hands. The major city of Stanleyville fell when the 1500 man government garrison fled, abandoning their armaments–which included mortars and armored vehicles. The national troops had been scared into headlong retreat by witch doctors charging with only forty Simba fighters! No bullets were fired by the Simba rebels, but the witch doctors frantically waved palm branches as a part of their supernatural arsenal.[10]

Unfortunately, Simba rule turned out to be not as comical, but quite cruel in administration. During the rebel rein, hundreds of Westerners, and Westernized elites, were massacred. (A figure of 10,000 civilians killed by Simbas seems to be a generally accepted number.) The magic warriors’ victories were stunning, especially given the fact that Simba rebels had no air force. Furthermore, the Simbas were hampered by a reluctance to fight at night or during a rain storms – the times that rebels believed their magic powers would vanish.[11] Despite their initial successes, successes which were undoubtedly inspired by the bullet-repelling recipes of the witch doctors, a counteroffensive backed by America and Belgium began to roll back the rebel forces.

A new Prime Minister, Moise Tshombe, was installed to head the Congo’s government and a force of Western mercenaries was quickly raised to fight the Simbas. In the fall of 1964, Stanleyville was recaptured by a joint Belgian-American paratroop drop. Unlike the Congolese government soldiers, when paratroopers were charged by a band of Simba fighters at the battle for the Stanleyville airport, (a charge led once again by a witch doctor), there was no panic found among the Belgian paratroopers who annihilated the rebels with automatic weapons fire.[12] Within the city of Stanleyville, over a thousand European hostages were freed with the defeat of defending Simba forces. For the Simbas, this major battle was decisive and the war started to take a nasty turn for the worse.

Within days, CIA donated and piloted aircraft, (B-26Ks and T-28s), strafed Simba units found in the open. Fifty-caliber cannons and 70mm wing-mounted rockets inflicted devastating casualties on the rebel columns, which failed to disperse even when under relentless air attack.[13] The Simbas lacked antiaircraft guns, and the rebel fighters didn’t use camouflage for concealment of positions, to the further great advantage of counterinsurgency pilots. However, one unfortunate CIA pilot was captured, killed, and eaten after his plane crashed.[14] (This is not unlike today’s MLC and RDC-N tribal fighters who believed that eating the vital organs of one’s enemy confers supernatural strength in battle.) Tshombe’s mercenary forces soon captured town after town from the less-disciplined Simba militias. One factor in the Western-aided military success was a lack of belief on the part of the counterinsurgency forces in the supernatural abilities of the Simba warriors. By the end of 1965, the Simba rebellion was well on its way to total defeat.

The final figure for Simba dead is unknown but thought to be in the thousands. Superior military arms and military discipline prevailed against an undisciplined, magically-thinking foe. The Simba rebellion was crushed in two years by brute military force, but certain magic wars have nevertheless had an unusual longevity on the African continent. Or is it the magical thinking of many Sub-Saharan Africans which has shown the greater endurance? Will history simply repeat itself for the Mai-Mai rebels and the other magic militia of the Congo? Will these mystical warriors in the Cradle of Civilization soon suffer tragic battlefield fates? I suppose we will have to wait and see what the future holds for those who stake their lives on the existence of a spirit world which they believe can be manipulated by magico-religious ritual means.

Sources Cited:
[1] “Sixty Ninjas Killed Attacking Airport,” Exploding Cigar, July 16, 2002.
Accessed on 12/21/2002 at http://www.exploding cigar.com/article4
[2] “January 2003 News Monitor,” Prevent Genocide International Report
Accessed on 02/22/2003 at http://www.preventgenocide.org/prevent/news-monitor/
[3] Michael Combs, “The Tragic Tale of the Mayi-Mayi,” Associated Press, 1996.
Accessed on 02/22/2003 at http://members.aol.com/mikecombs/mayimayi.htm
[4] “Children fight in Zaire” (a compilation of news reports, including Associated Press clippings.)
Accessed on 02/01/2003 at http://www.globalmarch.org/virtuallibrary/newsletters/childrenofwar/1-feb1997/news.htm
[5] O’Reilly, Finbar. “Mai-Mai threat emerges from Congo jungle hideouts,” Reuters, Oct.21, 2002.
[6] Michael Combs, “The Tragic Tale of the Mayi-Mayi” Associated Press. 1996.
Accessed on 02/22/2003 at http://members.aol.com/mikecombs/mayimayi.htm
[7] “UN team investigates reported atrocities in eastern DR Congo,” AFP, Jan.10, 2003
Accessed on 02/22/2003 at http://www.preventgenocide.org/prevent/news-monitor/
[8] “Pygmies demand a tribunal for crimes against them in Uturi,” IRIN, Jan. 28, 2003
Accessed on 02/22/2003 at http://www.preventgenocide.org/prevent/news-monitor/
[9] “Rural Insurgencies: The Second Independence,” Library of Congress, 1993. Based on information from Herman Kinder and Werner Hilgemann, The Anchor Atlas of World History, 2. Garden City, New York, 1978, p. 268.
[10] Randy Moorehead, “Operation Dragon Rouge,” (Historical notes and with detailed map of the Battle for Stanleyville). A good account of the battle where Belgium’s Red Berets trounce the surprised Simba forces. 1995. Corroborates details of battle kept in U.S. military archives.
Accessed on 03/02/2003 at http://simulationsworkshop.tripod.com/dragon.html
[11] Richard L. Holm, “A Close Call in Africa: A Plane Crash, Rescue, and Recovery”
Accessed on 01/26/2003 at http://www.cia.gov/csi/studies/winter99/
[12] Randy Moorehead, “Operation Dragon Rouge,” (Historical notes and with detailed map of the Battle for Stanleyville). A good account of the battle where Belgium’s Red Berets trounce the surprised Simba forces. 1995. Corroborates details of battle kept in U.S. military archives.
Accessed on 03/02/2003 at http://simulationsworkshop.tripod.com/dragon.html
[13] Robert Craig Johnson, “Heart of Darkness: The Tragedy of the Congo,” 1960-67 Eagle Droppings, the Newsletter of the Rocky Mountain Chapter, IPMS/USA. 1997.
Accessed on 03/08/2003 at http://worldwar.net/chandler/v2/v2n3/congo.html An excellent detailed account of military action during the Congo Crisis. Provides detailed drawings of the CIA aircraft, (including the squadron markings of the famous Black Bull of Congo’s Mikasa beer) used to crush the Simba Revolt. Interesting factoids about how the mercenary forces turned bad in the aftermath of the successful government counteroffensive and the CIA use of Cuban pilots from the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.
[14] Richard L. Holm, “A Close Call in Africa: A Plane Crash, Rescue, and Recovery”
Accessed on 01/26/2003 at http://www.cia.gov/csi/studies/winter99/

Black Weatherproof disguised Bullet/Stab-proof jacket

“This is, without doubt, the best disguised bullet/stab-proof jacket we have ever come across. You won’t find it  anywhere else and you will never find a protective jacket as smart as this one.  The protection levels it offers are quite unheard of in such a light,3 kilo, and discreet jacket. This jacket offers a protection level to NIJ STD 0101.04 level 11A and European Police Standard for tactical vests RPS B (1999).

The armour protects against 9mm Full Metal Jacket Round Nose (FMJRN) projectiles, with a weight of 8gm (124gr) at 430 m/s. Full Metal Jacket Round Nose (FMJRN) type DM11A1B2 (DN or MEN) projectiles with a weight of 8gm (124gr) at 415m/s. 44 Magnum jacketed Soft Point (JSP) type Norma 11103/61103 projectiles with a weight of 15.6gm (158gr) at 390 m/s. 44 Magnum Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) projectiles with a weight of 15.6gm (240gr) at 430 m/s. Eastern European Tokarev LC 7.62 x 25mm steel core projectile with a weight of 5.5gm at 455 m/s.

This jacket also protects against stabs, cuts, slashes with sharp and blunt edged weapons like hypodermic needles, ice picks, knives and broken bottles up to 25 Joules according PSDB (2003). This is a mans outdoor jacket made of 100% Polyester Canvas with PU-coating on the reverse. It has a waistband with a pull-chord and velcro fastening at the sleeve ends. It is supplied with a detachable hood. Available in sizes small to XXL in Black only.”

£1,250.00 Incl.VAT
£1,063.83 Excl.VAT

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