A woman lays four flowers in the shape of a cross on the dry, over-grown grass.
Another steps forward with more flowers and says the name of her loved one as well.
Each time a name is stated aloud the crowd gathered says “Presente” in unison.
The scene repeats itself more than 20 times during the hot afternoon in Hualla, a small village in Ayacucho. The little graveyard is filled with people for Hualla’s Day of Memory to remember those victims of Peru’s Internal Conflict from Hualla. It is only a fraction of the more than 70,000 killed during the bloody conflict, but in the tiny communities dotting the Ayacucho countryside, it is as though those that are gone were just there yesterday. Some of these people that have come to remember their loved ones have come all the way from Lima to participate in this collective memory event in the village and memorialize their lost. Those that no longer live here often fled to the coast seeking safety from the violence or could no longer stay in a place so filled with haunting memories and death.
The families of the victims walked the dusty road to the small cemetery that day to both memorialize their family members and to remind all of us that they are not forgotten. They had children, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, they had faces and smiles and laughs that exist in memory as vivid as life.
At the end of the ceremony there is a cross of flowers on the ground to mark our visit and represent those killed. The cross is too big, there are too many flowers, too many gone. There are too many women growing old alone in Hualla. Too many little girls and boys running around without grandfathers. Too many daughters and sons that have to ask older relatives what their fathers were like.
Presente means present in Spanish. They were present that day in Hualla. They are always present. EPAF won’t forget them, Hualla won’t forget them. They live on in memory and memorials. They live on in the perfect night sky above the Andes. They live on in the laughter of babies stumbling through the over-grown grass….with flowers.
Posted By Thomas Bradley (Peru)
Posted Jul 14th, 2014