“Ha llorado.” (“You cried.”)
Finally, I thought. I woke up my last day in Putis covered with every conceivable piece of clothing/blanket/sleeping bag I could find. As I lifted it all to look out on the new day, I was suddenly, unexpectedly greeted by the face of Ester, an EPAF employee that had slept next to me in our makeshift tent. Still not entirely awake, I was surprised to see her face staring back at me so closely. She looked at me and said, “Ha llorado.”
I reached up to feel my eyes. I hadn´t taken out my contacts in three days, and I figured my eyes were doing everything they could to tell me that the Putis way of life was far from ideal. I was shaken by the comment. For some time I had been waiting to know, when is all of this going to hit me? For the past two days I had seen bones, skulls of children with gunshot wounds, pieces of torn clothing, family members grieving over the grave – and I felt nothing. Yes, I felt sad, but I didn´t feel it in any visceral, cathartic way. I talked about my struggle with Ellen, a Canadian student working with EPAF completing a PhD in forensic anthropology from the University of Indiana. We both knew that what we were seeing was so removed from our own experiences, it seemed surreal. But I still wanted to feel something.
And so Ellen told me something then that I only now fully understand. She mentioned how some time ago she had talked to Melissa, an EPAF employee in charge of analyzing the recovered bones of the disappeared, asking her what it was like for her to confront death on a daily basis. Melissa responded that it was difficult, and that she tried to not think about the families she had met over the years while working. It was only when she returned home when she allowed herself to think back upon what it was like to hold the bones of children.
While putting together the photo montage at the end of this final clip in my house back in Lima two nights ago, I finally faced the swirl of images and experiences I had managed to internalize over my three days in Putis. Looking at the pictures, I cried over such loss of life, and the lives that were shattered on the 13th day of December, 1984. But my experience in Putis was not just about grief and sadness. It was also about a new beginning for the handful of families that were visibly heartened by EPAF´s work to recover their loved ones. Some said they had thought everyone had forgotten about their plight. The photos show otherwise.[youtube]eHYPjUsJ9ME[/youtube]
Posted By Ash Kosiewicz
Posted Jun 4th, 2008