The workshop was a great success. Jess and I returned to Lima from Abancay, Apurimac on Monday, back to the office in Jesus Maria. We spent last week learning about forensic anthropology from EPAF, alongside judges and prosecutors from the Apurimac region of Peru. EPAF brought its tools, expertise, and its human-sized dolls to the workshop. There were nine of us from EPAF, including Jess and I, on hand at the workshop.
Armed with our cameras, we recorded much of the workshop including the three different cases that were used as tutorials for the participants, who were divided into three groups. One case was of a very recent murder in a hotel room, where the victims–represented by the dolls–were strewn about the room along with the evidence. The other two cases were of the bodies of victims buried in mass graves for the participants to uncover and examine. The tutorials were preceded by comprehensive lectures on the application and interpretation of human rights law both internationally and in Peru, as well as a step by step description of the methods used in forensic anthropology to gather and examine evidence. The workshop concluded with presentations by each group outlining the evidence collected, their assumptions, and finally their conclusions demonstrating what they had learned.
The day before the workshop, on Wednesday, EPAF held a meeting with local human rights organizations; CDH (Center for Human Development), APRODEH (Association for Human Rights), FONCODES (Social Development Cooperation Foundation), Defensoría del Pueblo (Human Rights Ombudsman), as well as four family members of victims of forced disappearances. The meeting was held to introduce EPAF to the community and the organizations in Abancay, and serve as a jumping off point to further collaboration on human rights efforts, preserving the memory and seeking justice for the victims of forced disappearances.
The open forum that was to kick off the workshop on Thursday night was cancelled, and the workshop was nearly cancelled altogether due to the protest marches that took place in Abancay. The marches, as in many areas of Peru, were in protest to the violence that took place recently in northern Peru. Protesters clashed with police in Bagua, over two laws that were passed, opening up mineral and mining rights on land being used in that area by Amazon tribal groups, leaving many dead. Today in Peru’s congress, the laws were finally reversed.
While the protestors marched, Abancay shut down. The street was full of protestors all morning and into the afternoon, with different groups marching along the streets in all directions. The protests were peaceful, and Jess was able to capture some video of the marches themselves. While everything shut down during the day, Abancay was back to normal by nightfall. The protests only took place on Thursday, and things calmed down after that. We spent the rest of that Thursday strolling through Abancay and seeing the sights.
Savoring our last free moments before the workshop began the following day, Jess, Renzo (the historian), and I took the opportunity to look for the memorial that we had heard was within the city of Abancay, dedicated to the memory of victims of forced disappearances in the region. As we had a general idea of its location, we ventured into the city in search of this memorial relying on the local residents as our guides. As we walked in search of the memorial, we asked various residents of Abancay if they could point us in the direction of this memorial. To our frustration, not a soul that we asked had the same answer, and all lead us to a certain park which looked like an enormous jungle gym for kids. We didn’t find the memorial that day.
Renzo set out the following morning with better information, and did finally find the memorial. Perhaps the lack of knowledge of the memorial’s existence in Abancay is a further testament to the work that remains for human rights organizations and the victims’ families in preserving their memory. Or maybe we didn’t ask enough people.