As I return from Sacsamarca, I have the opportunity to reflect on the past three days there and the work we have accomplished over the past few months. As I have mentioned previously in this blog, Sacsamarca is the site of our quilting project and I have spent a significant amount of time travelling back and forth from there since June. As we collected the last of the quilting squares and spoke with the artists there was a sense that we had truly accomplished something meaningful and that we had started something, in advocacy quilting, that was going to have an impact far beyond Sacsamarca or even Peru.
I believe our work and consistent efforts in Sacsamarca have had an effect on the people there and I know that we have made some lifelong friends along the way. There is much work yet to be done however, the completion of the quilt and the storytelling that goes along with it are now in sight.
It was a difficult few days hearing the testimonies from our participants and quite a few tears were shed. The common themes of our discussions were the difficult memories that the quilting brought back, the demand for more support from the government, including individual reparations, and the hope that the quilt can help accomplish this.
Several of our quilters made squares for those that were killed in the action on the 21st of May 1983. This was heartwarming to see, as May 21st is a very important day in Sacsamarca and is celebrated every year by the people of the village. I think it’s important to retell this story as it was told to me as it is truly the defining moment for Sacsamarca in the conflict and very important to our quilters as well.
On the morning of May 21st, 1983 the women of Sacsamarca were preparing breakfast when a man arrived suddenly in the village looking disheveled and afraid. He warned the villagers that he had escaped from a Shining Path column that was up in the high plains above the village preparing to attack. He had been detained in a small hut, but had made a hole in the stone wall and escaped to warn the people of Sacsamarca.
Immediately, the women and children were sent to watchtowers outside of town to hide and wait out what might come. The men of Sacsamarca rang the bell in the plaza calling for aid from the neighboring annexes to fend off the coming attack. A small group arrived after the first ringing of the church bell and then a slightly larger group after ringing it a second time. Still largely outnumbered, they set off to engage the group of Senderistas up in the plains above the village. They were accompanied by 3 police officers who were present in the village as the events of the day unfolded.
In the face of unexpectedly organized resistance, the Shining Path force made for a neighboring settlement for reasons still unclear. What developed was a running battle through the puna and past two annexes, in the area, that lasted for hours. During the course of the battle, one of the police officers was killed and his brother (another police officer) continued the chase and eventually shot and killed the leader of the Shining Path column. After the hours long chase and running fighting (largely hand-to-hand), the Shining Path gave up its plan and fled for safety.
The accounts state that there were 9 people killed that day in the defense of Sacsamarca: 3 men from Sacsamarca, 5 men from neighboring annexes and the one police officer. Some of the names of those that were killed are on our quilt and we had the privilege to speak with their surviving relatives. Sacsamarca remembers them every year on the anniversary of the battle. I hope that the quilt can help tell their story.
Posted By Thomas Bradley (Peru)
Posted Nov 27th, 2014