I went to see a documentary with Jess and Jesus, a program designer at EPAF, at a cultural theater in the neighborhood of Barranco. Barranco is a neighborhood situated just south of my neighborhood on the coast. The documentary was called Lucanamarca, and it was named for the massacre that took place in 1983 around a rural town of that name, where 69 people were killed including women and children, by the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), the Maoist guerilla organization based in the region of Ayacucho.
The massacre was in response to the murder of a Shining Path leader by ronderos. Ronderos is the name given to the patrols of rural Peruvians who operated as an autonomous civil defense force, in response to the growing guerilla movement in rural Peru, and lack of protection by the government. The government did eventually begin to act as military rule was enforced in several provinces, after the conflict escalated around 1982, and ronderos were employed by the military.
The documentary showed various testimonies of survivors and relatives of victims over the course of the documentary, the exhumation of the bodies from their graves, and the events leading up to and including the trial of Abimael Guzmán, the leader of the Shining Path. It even included a scene where the president of Peru at the time of the documentary, Alejandro Toledo, the first president of Peru (2001-2006) of indigenous ancestry, made a speech at the town of Lucanamarca expressing his solidarity. He made promises about improving the lives of the residents of Lucanamarca–those improvements have yet to be seen in the area.
It was the first time I had heard testimony about the terrible events that took place repeatedly in the time of conflict in Peru in the 80s and 90s, particularly in the early 80s. It was hard to believe that so many massacres such as Lucanamarca were perpetrated by both sides of the conflict. It wasn’t however the last time I heard such testimony. Shortly after watching the Lucanamarca documentary, two video journalists arrived to Peru from the U.S. from an organization called 77 International, to do a documentary on EPAF. In order to help get the documentary going, Jose Pablo Baraybar, the director of EPAF, decided it would be a good idea to take the journalists to the site of one of the massacres that took place in Peru in 1984, a place called Putka, pretty close to where EPAF excavated the largest mass grave to date from the conflict, in Putis. I was able to tag along as well. The following several blogs will describe the details of our journey to Putka.