‘The eye that cries’: Peru recognizes a memorial of victims of violence as cultural heritage | International

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Ceremony of the declaration of the monument by the victims as national heritage of Peru, this Tuesday.
Ceremony of the declaration of the monument by the victims as national heritage of Peru, this Tuesday.Paolo Aguilar (EFE)

Nine years after the pressure of victims of the violence that affected Peru between 1980 and 2000, the Ministry of Culture has recognized this Tuesday as cultural heritage of the nation the crying eye, a place of memory that dignifies 32,000 people who died and disappeared during the internal armed conflict, whose names are written on rounded stones. The memorial – made up of a large granite sculpture in the shape of a mountain and a spiral labyrinth – is usually visited especially by those who are still looking for the remains of their relatives, but since its inauguration in 2005 it has been vandalized by supporters of Fujimori.

“My sister is still missing and I am Catholic, but this place does not have that connotation, it is so symbolic that it gives the possibility of reflecting on the time of violence, understanding and not only punishing, but recovering humanity lost in the atrocity”, comments Carolina Oyague, who goes to the monument several times a year. She is the sister of Dora Oyague, one of the nine students from the La Cantuta public university who were kidnapped and later murdered in 1992 by the Colina military detachment during the regime of the autocrat Alberto Fujimori.

The Colina group justified its actions as part of the fight against terrorism by the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso, but it targeted people unrelated to subversion and government opponents. “I come here on his birthday because I have no other place to pray to him, or sometimes when there were difficult moments in the prosecution of the La Cantuta case, because there has always been a constant attack,” adds Oyague, referring to the trial that ended with the 25-year sentence. of prison for Fujimori and his former adviser and de facto head of the armed forces, Vladimiro Montesinos.

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the crying eye It was a creation of the Dutch plastic artist Lika Mutal, who lived in the Andean country since 1968 and was recognized as a meritorious personality of culture in 2015 by the Peruvian State, a year before she died. The commemoration space was an initiative of the civil association Caminos por la Memoria, made up of human rights defenders and activists, who since 2013 managed to have the monument recognized as cultural heritage, but there was no rule that would allow it, explained Carlos del Águila, General Director of Museums of the Ministry of Culture. The legislation has existed since 2020. The recognition of the memorial as heritage is due to its artistic, historical and intellectual value, indicates the ministerial resolution published in the official gazette this Tuesday.

The site has been included for a few years on the UNESCO map of Places of Memory linked to serious violations of human rights, in the monument category. Local authorities and international cooperation collaborated in its realization, but it has been administered since 2005 by the civil association. Prime Minister Mirtha Vásquez participated in the delivery ceremony of the resolution declaring cultural heritage, and described the monument as “a work that represents the resistance of people who seek justice and reparation” and the heroic work of survivors and relatives of victims of violence.

Vásquez also said that the 1980-2000 period of the internal armed conflict “has left a series of hurtful speeches,” alluding to the conservative and Fujimorist sectors that attack the space located in Lima and discredit the relatives of the victims by calling them “terrorists.” of the massacres of La Cantuta and Barrios Altos (in 1991, also at the hands of Grupo Colina). “For many years our state was not up to compensation,” the prime minister added.

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The far-right shock groups that attack the memorial often destroy the stones bearing the names of the victims or remove them from the space. In 2009, supporters of Fujimori sprayed orange paint on the sculpture and broke the mechanism through which water gushed from the stone. “It was ship paint because we brushed with turpentine and it didn’t come off, my hands were hurt from scraping so much,” recalls Oyague, who was then one of the volunteers who cleaned the sculpture.

“Human beings have an evolutionary weight because we are able to bury the dead, but those who attack this space of memory have not been able to respect the losses, they have even done so in ceremonies here. A Fujimori shock group jumped on the daughter of the union leader Saúl Cantoral (assassinated in 1989) when she was speaking during a commemoration”, details the victim of the La Cantuta case.

On the pebbles are the names of civilian, police and military victims, including Rigoberto Tenorio, assassinated on a highway in Ayacucho in 1984. “My husband was a pre-military instructor at a school and had been a police officer. 40 years have passed and he is still missing, unfortunately the authorities say that there is not enough budget to search for his remains. Four years ago a resolution of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recommended that the Peruvian State repair its relatives and do justice, I do not lose hope”, says his widow Cipriana Huamaní, 74 years old.

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“I have come to crying eye many times, to all the places of the disappeared in the last 40 years”, adds Huamaní. During Tuesday’s ceremony, the former member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission -which acted between 2002 and 2003- Sofía Macher highlighted the contribution of the sculptor Mutal as a reason for the recognition of the site as cultural heritage. “She created this space that means so much to thousands of people, it is a place to meet people who are no longer here and who should be -civilians, policemen, military, patrolmen, men, children, women-“, he remarked.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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