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Remembering the Disappeared

June 21, 2010

Bolivia: Plaza
de los Desaparecidos

These photos are of the Plaza José Carlos Trujillo, in the Sopocachi neighborhood of La Paz, Bolivia. This unique park is dedicated to the memory of students and others who were “disappeared” during the dictatorship of Hugo Banzer Suárez in the 1970’s. It’s named for a 21-year-old student leader who was among the “desaparecidos,” or disappeared ones. The Banzer regime is blamed for at least 3,000 political arrests, many involving torture, and hundreds of murders and disappearances. In the words of one of the park’s sponsors, the park represents an effort “to oppose impunity and the eradication of memory.”
            My wife and I have visited this site twice. The first time, I’d have to say that I was mostly reacting to (and photographing) the murals and the dramatic landscaping. On our second visit, though, I found myself more focused on the 37 portraits of young desaparecidos – not too distant in age from our own son – and imagining myself in the position of their parents. It was a meditative experience, but not an entirely peaceful one.  
            I would be very interested in learning about other memorials like this, and – more importantly – hearing what our readers think about their meaning and impact. (See more photos and a further description of the Plaza at our website.)

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