On December 25th, 1984 the ronderos of the CDC (Civil Defense Committees) of several communities in the district of Huanta, in the region of Ayacucho, and several supposed members of the Armed Forces perpetrated the forced disappearance of 40 people, the majority being children. The victims were taken from their villages, held against their will, and ultimately taken to a nearby village called Putka where they were murdered with knives and left in a mass grave in a cave referred to as “mina Putka” at the top of a steep hill situated nearly 4600m above sea level (nearly 15,000 ft.).
We set out for Putka from Lima to document the expedition and the work that EPAF does in recovering the remains of the forcibly disappeared in Peru during the internal conflict of the 80s and 90s, as well as the obstacles they face. Jose Pablo, the director of EPAF, led the way, bringing along Jason and Jim of 77 international to document the trip and conduct interviews. Renzo Aroni, EPAF’s historian, came along to conduct the interviews in Quechua and organize the meetings with the victims’ relatives, including one survivor, who would also accompany us and guide us on the trip when we got closer to Putka. Jose Pablo really wanted to documentary to go well, and as a testament to his dedication to EPAF he brought his family along on the first leg of the journey. His two daughters, his girlfriend and her three sons, all made the trip to Ayacucho, the capital of the region where Putka, now an abandoned village, is located.
The trip would take several days. We would need to travel first to Ayacucho, which is roughly 8 hours from Lima through mountainous roads. We would then need to travel about an hour to Huanta, where we would meet with the family members who would accompany us and provide testimony of the events that took place on Christmas in 1984. From Huanta, we would have to travel 3 hours by dirt road through the mountains to a town called Parcorra, where the road ends, leaving us with a 3 hour walk up the mountain to the cave near Putka.
Stay tuned for part II….