Saturday, 26 January 2013

Peru: 30th anniversary of Uchuraccay

It is now three decades since one of the emblematic events of the Peruvian conflict, the killing of eight journalists and their guide in Uchuraccay. Here's my original post on Uchuraccay from 2009.

Uchuraccay is one of those events where, 30 years on, the truth seems as out of reach as ever despite two investigations and innumerable newspaper articles, events, protests, appeals to court, etc.

It is also a very visual contribution to social memory. Here are three images:

This is the classic picture of the murdered journalists (with the exception of Octavio Infante, who took it). It captures the men on their way up the village, posing, apparently relaxed, it could a snapshot of a group of friends on a day out. Its power derives from our knowledge of what happened next, that these men were almost at the end of their lives.

This image was taken by Willy Retto at Uchuraccay, very shortly before he was killed, and discovered in a film shortly after the publication of the report produced by the commission led by Mario Vario Llosa. How many instances are there of people capturing the very moments before their own death? The power of this image is located in its presentness, frozen just before the crime. What it does not do is deliver us an awareness of "the truth" or "the facts of the case". Retto's images have been used to argue both for and against the presence of the armed forces in the village. 

This photograph comes from the online edition of La Republica, in an article headlined "They live on in the hearts of those who loved them". It shows Oscar Retto, Willy's father, holding a photograph of his son. Retto senior has spent long years battling for justice for his child and the other victims. Like relatives in many other countries and contexts, his symbol is the enlarged image of his missing son. Unlike the families of the disappeared, of course, he knows where his son is buried, but he cannot be sure of the precise circumstances of his death. The image brings together a number of symbols - the Christian cross, the cemetery, the photograph, the memorial - yet Oscar Retto is also in a posture of defiance, not bowed in mourning. Also a photojournalist, Retto senior is aged over 80, but like the Grandmothers in Argentina, his pain keeps him fighting.

Here's further reading: in particular, Juan Gargurevich's posts on his blog Periodismo, Periodistas, Periódicos are highly recommended for Spanish-speakers.

Uchuraccay: la pesadilla de Vargas Llosa (I) (Periodismo, Periodistas, Periódicos)
Uchuraccay, la pesadilla de Vargas Llosa (II) (Periodismo, Periodistas, Periódicos)
Uchuraccay, la pesadilla de Vargas Llosa (III) (Periodismo, Periodistas, Periódicos)
Uchuraccay, la pesadilla de Vargas Llosa (FINAL) (Periodismo, Periodistas, Periódicos)
-¿Qué escribió Vargas Llosa sobre Uchuraccay? (Periodismo, Periodistas, Periódicos)
Uchuraccay (IDL-Reporteros)
30 años de la matanza de Uchuraccay (el Popular)
Mártires de Uchuraccay en el recuerdo de todos (La Primera)
Masacre de periodistas es una herida abierta en Perú (AFP)
Viven en el corazón de los seres que amaron (La Republica)

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