I have mentioned before that I feel like the dictatorship makes people do this:
It is not mine to make people talk about, but in places where there’s talking going on, you can be sure I’m giving it a listen. So yesterday I tasked myself with going up to Peñalolén, a comuna (neighborhood/district) about ten miles from where I live to pay a visit to Villa Grimaldi (location website, in Spanish)
Villa Grimaldi (on Wikipedia, in English) was a privately-owned country home that was appropriated at some point by the dictatorship, and used for what the dictatorship saw fit from 1973 to 1978. 5,000 prisoners were brought here, and in the end, 240 of them were disappeared or killed.
The area has been made into “Parque por la Paz” (Peace Park), and since 2004, people have been able to come, learn, reflect, and be educated on the dictatorship. It has taken me this long to make a trip out there, but the family I ended up meeting has a longer story. They’ve been in Australia since 1978. You do the math.
I have pictures of plaques explaining which type of torture or mistreatment or threatening was used in each location in the villa, but I’d rather show you these.
Sala de la Memoria, a small exhibit with personal effects of the prisoners. The room details the invention of damning evidence against the prisoners. It’s locked on the weekends, but during the week you should be able to gain access. It has wall text in English (very well-translated).
Fountain, representing cleansing (so told by the guide, a volunteer, who told our small group that her family was staunchly right-wing (derechista) during the dictatorship but disavowed knowlege of Villa Grimaldi’s purpose and others)
Here I have to take a deep breath.
I was walking, reflecting, learning as I wound my way around the area. I had started on the left side of the memorial, wandering from place to place, reading, and skimming the information. It was at this point I met up with a small tour group led by the volunteer, who actually asked the Australian /Chilean family and one other Chilean family if they’d like a tour. I joined because I’m like that (though I did ask). I met them in front of the wall that has the names of the disappeared etched into a set of plaques.
It was here that I started to connect the names with people. Maybe to you, as a reader across an ocean or across a landmass, these are just names. You don’t know anyone with names like these, yours are Swedish or Lithuanian or South African. The thing is, I know people with these names. Armando, Juan, Oscar, Luis, Manuel, Luis, Julia, Elizabeth, Alejandro, Jorge, Jose, Pedro, Marta, Julio, Hector.
These are the names of people I know, or the names of people I met at a party last night, or that I’ll meet today watching the kids at the skatepark. Likewise their last names, Sepúlveda? Check. Retamal, Salinas, Miranda? Check. I think moreso than seeing the faces (which I’d seen at the Museo de la Memoria, detailed here on Matador Change or watch the slideshow I made here, these names pulled me back to reality.
Further on, a rose garden from the time of the dictatorship was replanted with roses in recent times, with plaques representing the women disappeared or executed.
I was happily snapping, thankful for a bit of a reprieve, thinking of how roses are not carnations (red carnations being the flower used for funerary purposes here).
And I even got a shot of the whole garden, before looking more carefully at the fountain.
And then I saw the inscription.
Todas ibamos a ser reinas.
(We were all (meant) to be queens)
This quote is from the Gabriela Mistral poem, partial translation here.
And I was thankful for the Chilean Australian family and even with their anti-US sentiments, and the Chilean family who was silent and the right-winged family tour guide, and especially the little girl who was running through the rose garden, ignorant of all of it. And I wished for a minute that I could be, too.
Location: Peñalolén, Santiago
Address: José Arrieta 8401
Hours: 10 to 6, every day. Access to archives, museums, etc during the week. Tours with advance planning or if you get lucky day of, no info in tours in English.
Transportation: 513 bus from downtown (runs up Compañia/Merced) or from the Plaza Egaña metro, or take the D09 from the same. It’s on the other side of the Americo Vespuccio (the beltway), and if you say “Villa Grimaldi” to the bus driver, he is sure to know what you’re talking about. It’s about an hour’s relaxed bike ride from downtown, mostly uphill. Take Santa Isabel until it turns into Diagonal Oriental, and changes names several times, finally turning into José Arrieta.
Other points of interest “nearby”:
The Herbarium, a garden, nursery and workshop space where gardening classes are held, open M-Sat. José Arrieta 9960.