Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beauty from pain

Last weekend, Colin and I had the opportunity to visit something I never imagined I'd see unless I went to Europe: a concentration camp. It's not from World War II and it's not a Nazi concentration camp, but the fact that this camp was in operation throughout the 70s is perhaps even more sobering than if it were something I'd learned about since elementary school. It's a strong reminder that the world is not all as it should be.

Obviously Villa Grimaldi is no longer a "clandestine center for detention, torture, and extermination." Now it's Parque por la Paz Villa Grimaldi (Park for Peace Villa Grimaldi), and it is a very somber version of beautiful. The park was constructed on the grounds of the former concentration camp as a reminder that the fight for human rights doesn't end. Most of the old concentration camp was destroyed in the years after General Pinochet's military dictatorship in an effort to cover up the crimes committed there, but a few pieces have been reconstructed to help people like us understand what went on there. There is an example of the holding cells that prisoners lived in, five people to a cell, while they awaited torture or a verdict on their fate.

The inside of this cell is three feet by three feet

They have also reconstructed the Tower, an isolation center where some prisoners were taken to be tortured. They have sketches on the walls showing the life the prisoners lived here, including some of the specialized torture devices that were kept here.

The bed in this picture is called "la parilla" (the grill).

Most of the people taken to the tower were never seen again, and joined the numbers of the desaparecidos (the disappeared) who have never been found or accounted for. An estimated 4,500 prisoners passed through Villa Grimaldi while it was in operation, and at least 233 of them are now among the desaparecidos.

A memorial listing the names of the 233 known desaparecidos and executed

"El olvido está lleno de Memoria" The forgotten is full of memory

There is a rose garden that was planted in the park not only to mimic the rose garden that was there while it was a concentration camp, but also to commemorate all of the women who were in Villa Grimaldi and then became desaparecidos. When it opened, the rose garden had 36 names planted among the roses, but the monument was so moving that anyone who has a mother, daughter, wife, or sister among the desaparecidos can plant a rose there in their name.

There are several other memorials in the park, built by organizations who had members among the detainees at Villa Grimaldi.

MIR, the Revolutionary Left Movement

The Communist Party of Chile

The Socialist Party of Chile

At the end of our tour our guide showed us the collection of rail ties that was donated to the park by Judge Guzman after they were used as evidence in Pinochet's trials. These rail ties were found at the bottom of the ocean where we now know many of the desaparecidos were sent.

The Chileans have succeeded in creating a memorial that commemorates their loss, reminds them of their wrongs, brings peace to the present, and provides hope for a different future.

To conclude our exceedingly somber day in Santiago, we went to Pablo Neruda's second house, La Chascona. It was lovely, but again there was no photography allowed inside. This one was equally as convoluted as the last, but instead of having a view of the sea, it was built around a tiny waterfall on the side of a hill. It consequently had about sixteen different staircases, several of which were outside.

1 comment:

  1. Why is it so difficult for humans to be humane??