Shooting in the Empire State building:
And once again, brace yourselves for the post-massacre debates. Gun control will be but a blip on the screen, and quickly the deterrence narrative will devolve into either 1) the mental state of the shooter or 2) an insistence that “if only someone in the crowd had a gun, they could have stopped this.” The conversation stops there….everytime.
The Cabitos trial continues in Huamanga today. Yesterday two women testified about rape and other forms of sexual violence they endured in the military base. “Alcira,” now over 70 years of age, was a young schoolteacher in the community of Machente. She was detained and taken to the Cabitos base, where the soldiers stripped her naked. At that moment in the trial, the prosecutor asked everyone to leave the room so that Alcira could continue testifying in private.
A second, younger women also testified yesterday. She was 17 years old when she was detained and taken to the Cabitos base. She was subjected to soldiers touching her all over her body (other women we have interviewed mentioned the soldiers referred to this harassment as a “medical check-up,” laughing at the women’s humiliation). The soldiers then pulled her pubic hair, her breasts, and continued to torture her for hours.
And one final testimony from a man who was also tortured in the base, with electrical wires attached to his nipples and his genitals. His testimony was punctuated by tears.
More testimony forthcoming today.
Thank you to Edith Del Pino, Praxis, Ayacucho office
“Speaking of Silences: Gender, Violence and Reparations,” at “Ways of Knowing After Atrocity: Assessing the Methods Used to Research, Design and Implement Transitional Justice Processes,” Oxford Transitional Justice Network, June 28-29th, 2012, Oxford University, England.
“Anthropologies of Justice,” American Anthropological Association 111th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, November 14-18th, 2012.
Thank you for calling attention to this issue.
Currently in Ayacucho, a group of human rights organizations has organized a mobile exhibit of bits and piece of clothing the forensic anthropologists exhumed from some of the mass graves that are scattered across the highlands.=. Here is a piece I wrote for the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team, and I found myself re-reading it today.
During the presentation of the Peruvian TRC’s Final Report, Dr. Salomón Lerner posed a rhetorical question: “In effect, we Peruvians used to say, in our worst estimates, that the violence had left 35,000 dead. What does it say about our political community now that we know another 35,000 of our brothers and sisters were missing and we never even noticed they were gone?” I say “rhetorical” because the answer lies in the demographics of those who died: they were overwhelmingly Quechua-speaking peasants, people who — in the national imaginary — had counted for little during their lives and went largely unaccounted for in their deaths.
But only in the national imaginary. Of course their loved ones never forgot them and continue to remember them now as they touch their clothes, their bones — when they see a child’s shoe, so small yet capable of containing so much sorrow. Laid out on the blue plastic tarps is the material evidence of their dead loved ones. Yes, they may have been absent in the national history of the conflict, but they will always be present in the memories of those who loved them.
When the forensic anthropologists exhume the mass graves in Putis, they are also exhuming the Peruvian State. In recovering these remains, there exists the possibility of recovering the Peruvian state following many years of indifference to the most marginalized people in this country. The possibility exists if the state finally accepts that the armed forces com- mitted much more than “excesses and errors”: a tiny shoe accuses them.
As the mass graves that lay scattered throughout Ayacucho are opened, the state should open its own investigation into the military officials responsible for these crimes: doing so would be an important step in the long process of democratizing the Peruvian democracy. It would also be a response to the many campesinos who are still waiting for “a bit of justice.” During the TRC’s Public Audience in Huanta, Abraham Fernandez from the community of Chaka finished his testimony with these words: “Perhaps in a generation our children will be Peruvians. Once again I remember those Sunday mornings and the flag, and hope the wait will not be so long.