Ash Kosiewicz

Ash Kosiewicz (Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team): Ash graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002 with a dual degree in government and journalism. After graduation, he worked for two years as a child support officer with the Texas Office of the Attorney General. In 2004, he moved to Ecuador, where he lived for 10 months working with a local foundation in Guayaquil to raise funds for a health center project in the rural canton of Santa Lucia. Upon returning from Ecuador, he worked for two years as communicators director with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which provides legal aid to the poor in the United States. At the time of his fellowship, Ash was studying for a master's degree in Latin American studies from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. After his fellowship, Ash wrote: "The AP experience has given me another incredibly impactful experience in Latin America. It has given me an incredible story to tell, one that truly leaves people interested though unsure how to respond. I feel like I’ve gone through some pretty intense stuff, and I’ve come out of it stronger and more aware. I know I can handle tough environments, and work in a fast paced environment."



Lima-bound!

21 May

I am writing this first blog from the Miami airport, 2 hours until stepping on a plane to Lima, Peru. I just today finishing training with The Advocacy Project (AP), my US-based sponsor organization, to serve as an AP Peace Fellow in Peru for the next three months. While I’ve traveled to a few spots in Latin America since graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002, this will be my second extended experience in the region. In 2004-2005, I spent 10 months in Ecuador raising funds for a health center project. By the time I left, I had worked hand-in-hand with community leaders, witnessed the overthrow of the Ecuadorian government, and spent five days in a Guayaquil hospital recovering from typhoid. The experience, to say the least, was intense.

I always wanted the opportunity to come back to Latin America. When AP posted the job description for my current position with the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team (EPAF), I was hooked. EPAF is dedicated to the search, recovery, and identification of missing individuals in Peru — many of whom are called “desaparecidos,” or “the disappeared”. From 1982-2000, Peru was ravaged by an internal civil war that left almost 70,000 Peruvians dead, 75 percent of whom were Quechua-speaking Indians. The major players in the conflict were the Communist insurgent group “Sendero Luminoso” (“Shining Path”) and the Peruvian state/military. In the name of creating a social revolution that would free the rural peasantry from their historic marginalization at the hands of an urban elite, the Shining Path embarked on a violent campaign to destroy and overthrow the Peruvian government. The Peruvian state, in return, vowed to eliminate the Shining Path.

The result was indiscriminate violence of horrific proportions perpetrated by both sides. An official Truth Commission in 2003 reported that 8,500 Peruvians were “disappeared” by the Peruvian military, a tactic used to round up anyone suspected of ties to the Shining Path, regardless of whether these ties were true. Many were tortured, killed, and discarded. Since the report’s release, EPAF has documented approximately 15,000 disappearances, and the figure keeps growing. This blog will chronicle my work with EPAF to give voice to the thousands of Peruvians who one day were taken from their homes and never came back, as well as share the stories of their families who still grieve their loss.

Before I get on board, I want to share a poem written by Ranulfo Fuentes, a Peruvian songwriter and high school teacher who lives in the Peruvian province of Ayacucho, where many of the disappearances took place. Originally written in the indigenous language of Quechua, the poem embodies the feelings and purpose behind EPAF’s work. Ask yourself: How would you feel if a member of your family, just one day, disappeared?

Huamanguino (Fuentes) *** Taken from “The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics” ***

I

Someone from Huamanga has disappeared!
At what time?
About midnight
from his house,
at the hour of deepest sleep
they have taken and kidnapped him.

II

When he screamed after being hit
his mother protested, crying
Hands bound tightly
they took him
covering his eyes
they dragged him away.

III

Months and years have passed
Where could he be?
Perhaps under the stony ground
becoming earth
or among the thorns
buddling like wild flowers.

IV

Soon he will return, he will come back
like rain for the crops
to make the seeds sprout
like the sun at dawn
that makes flowers bloom.

Posted By Ash Kosiewicz

Posted May 21st, 2008

3 Comments

  • Holly

    May 21, 2008

     

    Good luck! I know your experience will be enriching beyond what you think.

  • Holly

    May 22, 2008

     

    That poem is powerful and resonates with many Colombians. I can imagine the pain these people went through knowing that they’re love ones were killed without a proper burial. You in a way are bringing a long awaited peace to the families of the forgotten – somewhat ironic because Peru is not considered a country in conflict. Will try to call before you head out on Monday. Un abrazo mas fuerte del mundo!

  • Amy Burrows

    June 3, 2008

     

    wow Ash.. I’ve read many “first blogs,” and this might possibly be the best one yet! 🙂 What a fabulous set up for your entire Fellowship.

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