I know I promised a “food blog” from my Machu Picchu/Cusco trip. It will come!!!! But first I wanted to blog about some of the amazing experiences I’ve been having lately learning about Peru’s history.

My favorite course here at Católica is called “Justicia y Organismos Públicos” taught by Jo Marie Burt. Profesora Burt is a visiting professor from George Mason. In class, we’ve been studying transitional justice.
Transitional justice is a response to systematic or widespread violations of human rights. It seeks recognition for victims and to promote possibilities for peace, reconciliation and democracy. Transitional justice is not a special form of justice but justice adapted to societies transforming themselves after a period of pervasive human rights abuse.http://www.ictj.org/en/tj/

If you do not know much about this time period in Peru (as I didn’t when I first arrived), I highly highly recommend reading about. Here’s the wikipedia link–it really doesn’t do it justice.

I feel like basically, the easy/common thing to do is blame all the human rights violations on Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path–maoist, guerilla, terrorist group started by a professor at an Ayacuchan university named Abimael Guzman (their leader captured in 1992). The Senderistas wanted to take over the government and make a “New Democracy.” They went to the rural, indigenous areas to gain support, highlighting the failures of the current regime and boasting change for the better.) It is true that SL was responsible for many many many violations–massacres, disappearances, torture, sexual violations.. However, according to the CVR (the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Peru), the Senderistas were responsible for 54%, the MRTA (Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) was responsible for 1.5%,and the Peruvian armed forces were responsible for 37%.

Some specific cases if you would like to learn more “Cantuta Massacre” “Barrios Altos Massacre” “Putis”–all committed by the armed forces. “Uchuraccay Massacre” where journalists were killed in Ayacucho. “Tarata Bombing” “Lucanmarca Massacre”Assassination of María Elena Moyano” carried out by the Shining Path. The Peruvian government was ill-prepared to fight the Senderos and their guerrilla war. The rural, indigenous, quechua speakers got the brunt of the impact. 79% of the victims were from rural areas (only 29% of Peru’s entire population lives in rural areas). 75% of the victims spoke Quechua or other native language as thir primary language (Only 16% or Peru’s population speaks a native language as their first.) These statistics show how lopsided the violations were. Statistics given in class–time period: 1980-2000.
69,000 deaths
14,000 forced disappearances,
600,000 displaced persons
4-5,000 arrests without justification

A couple of weeks ago, our professor was out of town. Instead of going to class, she asked us to visit Yuyanapaq, a photographic memorial to the victims of the armed conflict. Yuyanapaq means “para recordar” or “to remember” in Quechua. Here’s a link to a random blog I found that has pictures of the memorial-with captions from the blogger (I didn’t think to bring my camera):

The memorial did an incredible job of making history come to life. Words cannot describe what an impact it had on me. And today, I was fortunate enough to receive a publication of the memorial that includes the majority, if not all, of the the pictures with captions. My teacher brought them to class!! Yuyanapaq is awesome–a great way to memorialize the conflict and its victims. The exhibit evokes many strong emotions and serves as a place for Peruvians to remember and contemplate their history–as well as for foreigners to learn about it. One photo in particular had a strong effect on me. It was a black and white of the Pan American Highway with tons of rocks on it and a combi off to the side. The rocks formed a roadblock for the combi and the senderos killed everyone on the combi. It struck me hard. I have traveled on the Pan American before in a combi just like the one depicted. The conflict during which this picture was taken ended a mere 10 years ago. It is still very fresh in the minds of those who lived through it. Yuyanpaq brought history to life for me and made it personal. I will never forget the atrocities that occurred here in Peru…ever.

On Saturday, June 5, Calin and I visited the Ojo Que Llora monument in Campo Marte (park in Lima). This is a monument by an artist named Lika Mutal, who was born in Holland but has lived in Peru for 40 years. Mutual inspiration for the monument was her visit to Yuyanapaq. The monument consists of a maze of around 47,000 stones that used to have the names of 27,000 victims on them (taken from an official list). Visitors are meant to follow the maze of stones from inside out until they come face to face with Mother Earth or Pachamama in the center. She is represented as an eye perpetually crying–a stream of water continually flows from this sculpture. The monument was funded by private donations. There is a huge debate about this monument–basically about how to distinguish “victims” from “perpetrators”. Many believe that among the rocks, are names of both. The monument was defaced once in 2007 when news of Fujimori´s extradition surfaced. The persons responsible for this attacked a guard at the monument, smashed several rocks, and left neon orange paint all over the monument. The sun and weather have washed away all the original names on the rocks (painted with permanent ink), and now the rocks are being inscribed and placed in a series of ceremonies.

The day after we visited “El Ojo que Llora,” I attended a group meeting for a project in Justicia class. Our group met with members of EPAF (Equipo Peruano de Antropología Forense).http://epafperu.org/ We discussed the case we´ve been researching–El Caso de Putis. This event occurred in December 1984 in the region of Huanta. In this region, there had been high sendero presence. Many of the people living in the region, had fled to the mountains and forests to hide in 1983. A military base was installed in 1984. The armed forces asked the villagers to come out of hiding, promising protection from the Senderos. When the villagers returned, the military led them to a site under the pretense of making a piscigranja or fish farm to aid in the redevelopment of their town. The men started digging, and when they had finished, the all of the villagers lined up around the holes for the fish farm. The military proceeded to shoot all 123 of them–men, women, and children (many many many innocent children–the youngest was only 1 year old). Basically the villagers had dug their own grave. The CVR–truth and justice commission of Peru–investigated this case and confirmed that these events occurred. They found two graves, one in 2001 and the other in 2003. These graves were not exhumed until 2008–24 years after the massacre had occurred. EPAF helped with the exhumation, conducting tests with DNA and identifying the bones, clothes, and other possessions within the graves. They also found bullets with the markings of the armed forces inside. The testimonies of the CVR and the evidence from the exhumation matched perfectly. (Exhumations are only allowed in Peru if the case is being brought to court) However, there is still no justice for the case of the Putis. To find out why my group believes why you can read our essay. (I will try to attach it later)

While talking to members of EPAF, we touched on the subject of memory. I gave the example of September 11: For my children, it will “just” another part of history. How will they understand the importance or impact of what happened? EPAF emphasized that this is the importance of their work–not only to help with exhumations and run tests and analyze data but ALSO to make sure people don´t forget.

I believe this is the importance of memorials like Yuyanapaq and El Ojo que Llora–to FORCE people to remember what happened so that it won´t happen again. I like the way a guest professor to our class put it best in these few statements (he was talking about film, but it still applies:) ) :

–>The images call us to reflect and analyze what we see.

–>They give new generations the possibility to have a memory so they can investigate the events so they can turn “myths” into history.


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