Two weeks and counting before my departure to Peru to work as the Advocacy Project’s, Summer Peace Fellow in their partnership with the Peruvian Forensics Anthropology Team (EPAF). In preparation, I have been reading up on the current state of affairs in Peru as much as possible. A recent incident that struck me as somewhat symbolic before my departure, was when a few weeks ago, the U.S. Park Police arrested Peruvian actress, Q’orianka Kilcher (who played Pocahontas in the 2005 film, “The New World”) for chaining herself to the fence of the White House as her mother doused her in a shiny oil-like black substance. The act coincided with Peru’s current President, Alan Garcia’s, meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House. Click here to read article/watch video.
Upon reading the article I was struck by the symbolism involved in the demonstration and yet the scarcity of additional information provided. The article contained the “when, what, who and hows” but lacked the more profound question as to why the 20 year old indigenous actress might participate in such a blatant act of civil disobedience.
Therefore I am taking it upon myself to surmise. Could it be a protest against the selling of land that inhabited Peru’s indigenous to foreign oil companies that upset her? Or against the Los Cabitos military base, which served as a torture and extrajudicial execution center during Garcia’s first administration, where more than 95 bodies have now been recovered? Maybe, the 1985 torture and murder of 69 Indian peasants in Accomarca in Peru’s southern Andes? Even perhaps, the massacre of 29 peasants in Cayara village in 1988?
Whatever Kilcher’s personal explanation may be, I realize that what I hope to achieve this summer is to challenge the silence and latent knowledge of Peru’s recovery from its 20 year long conflict of 1980-2000. Among the most prominent perpetrators of the conflict were the Sendero Luminoso in their terrorist campaign for ‘class struggle’ that claimed the lives of 31,331 people, 46% of the total deaths and disappearances. However, their violence was countered with further violence and further human rights violations by the State, escalating to a point of gridlock.
This summer I hope to fill in these reportage gaps by working side by side with EPAF to support 240 families of the disappeared from 6 communities in the Pampas-Qaracha River Basin in Ayacucho (what was the epicenter of violence during the conflict). Through this partnership we will work together to organize family associations that are capable of advocating for the recovery and identification of their disappeared loved ones’ remains while providing them with an outlet to express the process towards this recovery.
Although much of the North American view of indigenous in the Americas may stop at the story of Pocahontas, I intend to tell the story of those who have survived Peru’s dirty war where 70,000 people were killed and disappeared. I think that deserves recognition.
Posted By Karin Orr
Posted Jun 10th, 2010