Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ayacucho Museum to the Memory of Those Killed and Disappeared During the War Years

The main reason I traveled to Ayacucho last week was to attend a two-evening colloquium on "Class, Gender and the Building of Peace in Peru (1961-2014)".  It's main purpose was to examine the role of women in social movements, guerrilla groups, and in building peace and reconciliation, beginning with the  guerrillas of the 1960s,  but centering on the internal war waged  between the Peruvian state and the guerrillas of the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement in the 1980s and 1990s.

Given the political climate in the country at the moment, all doors were closed to the holding such an event in Lima.  However, in Ayacucho, which had been at the center of the violence and which suffered the greatest number of victims -between those killed, disappeared, tortured, traumatized, and displaced- the doors were opened.  And they were opened by no less than the mothers and relatives of the disappeared organized in the Association of Relatives of the Kidnapped, Detained, and Disappeared of Peru (ANFASEP).

ANFASEP was started in 1983, when Angélica Mendoza de Ascarza -"Mamá Angélica"- after fruitlessly searching for her son Arquímedes, who had been taken one night by the army, joined with other women searching for their own relatives who had also been detained.  Mamá Angélica organized them to help each other draw attention to their cause and try to bring pressure on the authorities to release their relatives -or their corpses- and to bring those responsible to justice.  Now, thirty years later, they're still waiting for justice, and the fate and location of many of the victims, including Mamá Angélica's Arquímedes, are yet to be revealed.

Anyway, after thirty years of facing down authorities, threats, and every obstacle thrown in their path, the mothers of ANFASEP are not afraid of much, and they generously co-sponsored the event and got the Jesuit Order to provide the meeting space.

Not only did Adelina Garcia, ANFASEP's current president, open the event on Wednesday evening, but as part of it, they invited those attending to visit the ANFASEP's Museum of Memory, which was the first museum in Peru dedicated to exploring the war and to the memory of the victims.
ANFASEP's building on Prolongacion La Libertad, Ayacucho.

The museum houses photos, documents, and artwork related to the war's victims and their relatives' search for justice and reparations, and clothing and other items that belonged to the disappeared.

ANFASEP's first banner and the cross with the inscription "Do Not Kill", which they bore in their early mobilizations.

Mrs. Lidia Flores -standing before a photo of her late husband, Felipe Huamán, and the shirt he was wearing when he was taken by the police in July of 1984- talks about about the night he was taken, the day, a month later, when she discovered and  then secretly recovered and reburied his corpse, and her continuing struggle to gain convictions of the policemen who murdered him.

To say that the museum is moving, and harrowing and inspiring at the same time, understates the impact  on one caused by the exhibits and the courage of the women -mainly- who established and run it and ANFASEP.

Artwork depicting the kitchen which ANFASEP ran to feed 200 war orphans in the 1990s.

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