Mariel Sanchez

Mariel is a graduate student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, focusing on human security and international development. She is originally from Mexico and has spent time studying in France and doing volunteer work in Costa Rica. Prior to her graduate studies, she was a case manager and legal representative at the YMCA International Services, a refugee resettlement agency in Houston, Texas. Her cases involved immigration relief for victims of crime, asylum seekers, and family reunification for refugees and other low-income immigrants. Before starting in immigration law, she worked for a disaster relief program, where she provided case management and direct assistance to hurricane survivors. She also has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin. This summer, she continued her work in the human rights field with EPAF, further exploring issues of transitional justice and post-conflict development. After the fellowship, she wrote: "The fellowship kept me very busy and I enjoyed having variety in the work. I liked being able to contribute practical skills in preparing a grant proposal and a marketing plan, while also having the opportunity to be creative in designing a website, writing AP blogs and making videos. For me, the best part about the fellowship was that I wasn’t just doing a job, but that everything I did had the greater benefit of supporting human rights. Also, working with the people of EPAF and learning the stories of the conflict directly from the victims were the most rewarding aspects." Contact: msanchez@advocacynet.org



The Story of Mrs. Benedicta

08 Aug

Mrs. Benedicta seems to be in every sense a “typical” war widow. She is elderly, lives alone, raised her children on her own, and is isolated from her community. In Quechua, she would be called a “warmisapa,” a word used in the communities to describe the widows of the conflict. “Warmi” means “woman” and “sapa” means “a lot of” or “alone.”

We meet Mrs. Benedicta at the entrance of her home during our visit to the village of Hualla. She lays empty burlap sacks on the ground for us to sit and brings us a bowl of warm corn and fava beans to eat. Her entire front yard is covered in ears of corn and a few of her chickens are tied to rocks to keep them from running away.

Mrs. Benedicta goes inside her house to get a plastic bag. Inside is a laminated photograph of her husband, an enlarged version of the photograph from his military ID card. This is the only remaining portrait she has of him.

EPAF Field School - Hualla, PeruMrs. Benedicta holding the bag where she keeps the photograph of her husband
and the EPAF book.

Out of the same plastic bag, she pulls out one of EPAF’s publications: From Victims to Citizens: Memories of the Political Violence in the Pampas River Basin. I have seen this book on my desk at the EPAF office and I am very curious to meet the woman on the cover.

As we flip through the book, Mrs. Benedicta comments she has never opened the book before. She doesn’t know how to read and didn’t know there was more to see inside. She explains her grandfather raised her and she never had the chance to go to school because he sent her to take care of the sheep. She tells us in Quechua she thinks it is nice that after she dies, her children will remember her by looking at this book.

de-victimas-a-ciudadanos

Cover of EPAF’s book. Click here to read the full version.

De-kernelWe take a break from the interview to help Mrs. Benedicta
de-kernel some of the corn from her latest harvest.

Mrs. Benedicta smiles when she finds a second picture of her in the middle of the book. She says her hands in the picture look dirty from tending the sheep. She recalls how she cared for her sheep, but also comments on how delicious they tasted. Sharing this light conversation and hearing her laugh makes it difficult to imagine the years of suffering she has experienced.

In 1983, the soldiers came from the military base in Chimpapampa to take her husband.

According to Mrs. Benedicta, when the military bases were installed in the area, the members of the armed forces and the villagers of Hualla initially lived together in relative peace. The soldiers used to play soccer matches with the village men and made bets about who would win. The soldiers always won and forced the village men to pay them, but the villagers did not always pay. Mrs. Benedicta believes this is the reason her husband became a target for the military.

Mrs. Benedicta looks out at the sunset and recalls that it was around this time of the day more than 30 years ago when she last saw her husband. The armed men arrived in Hualla, rounded up a select group of villagers, her husband among them, detained them and took them away.

EPAF Field School - Hualla, Peru

After her husband was taken, Mrs. Benedicta went to the military base many times with some of the other wives to look for him. She would bring food for the military men so that they would allow her to arrive at the gate. However, she was never let inside and she never saw her husband. On one occasion when she was walking near the base, the military guards began to shoot at her from the other side.

Mrs. Benedicta is certain her husband died at the hands of the Peruvian armed forces. She says he may have been transported to another military base and killed, his body buried behind the base or thrown into a river, or eaten by dogs.

Although she has grown used to telling and re-telling her story, nostalgia sweeps over Mrs. Benedicta when she talks about her children. When her husband disappeared, her daughter was 3 years old and her son was only a couple of months old. She begins to cry because her children have moved to Lima. She says she fought for them, always took care of them to keep them from getting sick, and made them get ahead in life.

EPAF Field School - Hualla, PeruPercy recently visited Mrs. Benedicta’s son in Lima.
He shows Mrs. Benedicta photographs he took of her son and granddaughter.

Mrs. Benedicta especially misses her children because in Hualla she feels lonely and excluded. Her neighbors don’t talk to her and no one visits her.  She tells us she doesn’t like to go to parties or festivals because no one invites her and if she goes, no one shares their food or drinks with her.

A couple of days later I meet Mrs. Benedicta at the “Day of Memory.” Mrs. Benedicta is the first one at the church for the religious service in honor of the victims of the conflict. Afterwards, she leads the march to the cemetery, holding the banner for the local association of relatives of the victims.

She sits for hours under the burning sun, listening to speeches by heads of human rights organizations and government officers. She is then among the first to stand in line to lay flowers on the empty plot of land where the grave of her disappeared husband should have been.

With her strength, her sense of humor, her self-sufficiency, her civic participation, and her determination to give her family a better life, Mrs. Benedicta challenges, in every sense, the image of the victimized war widow.

Our interviews with the local villagers in recent weeks have shown me the importance of the work of EPAF. The body of Mrs. Benedicta’s husband may remain missing, but the efforts of EPAF do not end with stalled forensic interventions to locate and return the bodies of the disappeared.

EPAF Field School - Hualla, PeruPercy from EPAF and Mrs. Benedicta.
Mrs. Benedicta holds the picture of her disappeared husband, Bernardo Ipurri Tacsi.

Members of EPAF bring comfort to people like Mrs. Benedicta. They listen to their concerns, rescue their memories, ensure they receive fair compensation for their losses, connect them with relatives in other places, help them organize to honor their disappeared, communicate their griefs to government authorities, and above all, treat them as humans with rights and return to them their dignity.

“The visits from EPAF and the mass on the Day of Memory are good,” Mrs. Benedicta tells us. “Wherever the bodies are, the souls, this is how they find peace and how we help them go to heaven.”

EPAF Field School - Hualla, PeruAt the end of our interview with Mrs. Benedicta (Photo by Percy Rojas, EPAF).

 

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Mrs. Benedicta seems to be in every sense a \u201ctypical\u201d war widow. She is elderly, lives alone, raised her children on her own, and is isolated from her community. In Quechua, she would be called a \u201cwarmisapa,\u201d a word used in the communities to describe the widows of the conflict. \u201cWarmi\u201d means \u201cwoman\u201d and \u201csapa\u201d means \u201ca lot of\u201d or \u201calone.\u201d<\/p>\r\n

We meet Mrs. Benedicta at the entrance of her home during our visit to the village of Hualla. She lays empty burlap sacks on the ground for us to sit and brings us a bowl of warm corn and fava beans to eat. Her entire front yard is covered in ears of corn and a few of her chickens are tied to rocks to keep them from running away.<\/p>\r\n

Mrs. Benedicta goes inside her house to get a plastic bag. Inside is a laminated photograph of her husband, an enlarged version of the photograph from his military ID card. This is the only remaining portrait she has of him.<\/p>\r\n

\"EPAF<\/a>Mrs. Benedicta holding the bag where she keeps\u00a0the photograph of her husband\r\nand the EPAF book.<\/em><\/p>\r\n

Out of the same plastic bag, she pulls out one of EPAF\u2019s publications<\/a>: From Victims to Citizens: Memories of the Political Violence in the Pampas River Basin.<\/em> I have seen this book on my desk at the EPAF office and I am very curious to meet the woman on the cover.<\/p>\r\n

As we flip through the book, Mrs. Benedicta comments she has never opened the book before. She doesn\u2019t know how to read and didn\u2019t know there was more to see inside. She explains her grandfather raised her and she never had the chance to go to school because he sent her to take care of the sheep. She tells us in Quechua she thinks it is nice that after she dies, her children will remember her by looking at this book.<\/p>\r\n\"de-victimas-a-ciudadanos\"<\/a>\r\n

Cover of EPAF\u2019s book. Click here<\/a> to read the full version.<\/em><\/p>\r\n

\"De-kernel\"<\/a>We take a break from the interview to help Mrs. Benedicta\r\nde-kernel some of the corn from her latest harvest.<\/em><\/p>\r\n

Mrs. Benedicta smiles when she finds a second picture of her in the middle of the book. She says her hands in the picture look dirty from tending the sheep. She recalls how she cared for her sheep, but also comments on how delicious they tasted. Sharing this light conversation and hearing her laugh makes it difficult to imagine the years of suffering she has experienced.<\/p>\r\n

In 1983, the soldiers came from the military base in Chimpapampa to take her husband.<\/p>\r\n

According to Mrs. Benedicta, when the military bases were installed in the area, the members of the armed forces and the villagers of Hualla initially lived together in relative peace. The soldiers used to play soccer matches with the village men and made bets about who would win. The soldiers always won and forced the village men to pay them, but the villagers did not always pay. Mrs. Benedicta believes this is the reason her husband became a target for the military.<\/p>\r\n

Mrs. Benedicta looks out at the sunset and recalls that it was around this time of the day more than 30 years ago when she last saw her husband. The armed men arrived in Hualla, rounded up a select group of villagers, her husband among them, detained them and took them away.<\/p>\r\n\"EPAF<\/a>\r\n

After her husband was taken, Mrs. Benedicta went to the military base many times with some of the other wives to look for him. She would bring food for the military men so that they would allow her to arrive at the gate. However, she was never let inside and she never saw her husband. On one occasion when she was walking near the base, the military guards began to shoot at her from the other side.<\/p>\r\n

Mrs. Benedicta is certain her husband died at the hands of the Peruvian armed forces. She says he may have been transported to another military base and killed, his body buried behind the base or thrown into a river, or eaten by dogs.<\/p>\r\n

Although she has grown used to telling and re-telling her story, nostalgia sweeps over Mrs. Benedicta when she talks about her children. When her husband disappeared, her daughter was 3 years old and her son was only a couple of months old. She begins to cry because her children have moved to Lima. She says she fought for them, always took care of them to keep them from getting sick, and made them get ahead in life.<\/p>\r\n

\"EPAF<\/a>Percy recently visited Mrs. Benedicta\u2019s son in Lima.\r\n<\/em>He shows Mrs. Benedicta photographs he took of her son and granddaughter.<\/em><\/p>\r\n

Mrs. Benedicta especially misses her children because in Hualla she feels lonely and excluded. Her neighbors don\u2019t talk to her and no one visits her.\u00a0 She tells us she doesn\u2019t like to go to parties or festivals because no one invites her and if she goes, no one shares their food or drinks with her.<\/p>\r\n

A couple of days later I meet Mrs. Benedicta at the \u201cDay of Memory.\u201d<\/a>\u00a0Mrs. Benedicta is the first one at the church for the religious service in honor of the victims of the conflict. Afterwards, she leads the march to the cemetery, holding the banner for the local association of relatives of the victims.<\/p>\r\n

She sits for hours under the burning sun, listening to speeches by heads of human rights organizations and government officers. She is then among the first to stand in line to lay flowers on the empty plot of land where the grave of her disappeared husband should have been.<\/p>\r\n

With her strength, her sense of humor, her self-sufficiency, her civic participation, and her determination to give her family a better life, Mrs. Benedicta challenges, in every sense, the image of the victimized war widow.<\/p>\r\n

Our interviews with the local villagers in recent weeks have shown me the importance of the work of EPAF. The body of Mrs. Benedicta\u2019s husband may remain missing, but the efforts of EPAF do not end with stalled forensic interventions to locate and return the bodies of the disappeared.<\/p>\r\n

\"EPAF<\/a>Percy from EPAF and Mrs. Benedicta. <\/em>\r\nMrs. Benedicta holds the picture of her disappeared husband,\u00a0Bernardo Ipurri Tacsi.<\/em><\/p>\r\n

Members of EPAF bring comfort to people like Mrs. Benedicta. They listen to their concerns, rescue their memories, ensure they receive fair compensation for their losses, connect them with relatives in other places, help them organize to honor their disappeared, communicate their griefs to government authorities, and above all, treat them as humans with rights and return to them their dignity.<\/p>\r\n

\”The visits from EPAF and the mass on the Day of Memory are good,\u201d Mrs. Benedicta tells us. \u201cWherever the bodies are, the souls, this is how they find peace and how we help them go to heaven.\u201d<\/p>\r\n

\"EPAF<\/a>At the end of our interview with Mrs. Benedicta (Photo by Percy Rojas, EPAF).<\/em><\/p>\r\n

\u00a0<\/em><\/p>“}]}[/content-builder]

Posted By Mariel Sanchez

Posted Aug 8th, 2015

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