Valentin Casa can’t shake the recurring nightmares. And this day certainly isn’t helping.
The 36-year-old farmer looks on as forensic investigators unearth a pair of finger bones and two copper rings from a mass grave in the village of Huallhua on the eastern steppes of Peru’s Andes. The grave contains the long-buried remains of two women and 13 children, and Casa believes the bones and rings belonged to his mother.
As a boy 27 years ago, Casa watched from behind trees as soldiers and their paramilitary allies dismembered and killed his mother and other women and children left behind by fleeing Shining Path rebels. Civilians suspected of backing the rebels were hunted down and killed. Two weeks later, troops and their civilian confederates caught and killed men from Casa’s village, including his father, whose throat they slit.
"I drank my own urine to survive," Casa remembers after his mother was killed and he fled into the forest. In his recurring nightmare, Casa is chased by someone, he knows not who. He always awakens with a start, covered in sweat.
Teresa Vilchez, 52, says she still suffers occasional vaginal bleeding from a gang rape by soldiers in 1984 at the nearby Mollebamba barracks. Rebels killed her husband, she says, and soldiers killed her mother, who she says was disfigured in the customary way after being raped: Her breasts were cut off.
No one has been arrested or prosecuted to date for the crimes in Chungui — not a single soldier, rebel or civilian. The survivors are mostly on their own. Villagers say no one has received any mental health counseling. Vilchez has never seen a gynecologist.
Three decades later, this isolated corner of Peru is witnessing the biggest exhumation to date of victims of the nation’s 1980-2000 internal conflict. The worst of its carnage occurred on these hills between the Andes ridge and Amazon jungle.
"Everybody here is traumatized," Casa says as he watches the work underway. "Whoever says he isn’t is lying."
The killing fields are an 18-hour walk from the nearest road in a region known as “Oreja de Perro,” or Dog’s Ear. It is a place where health care, schools, police and other state institutions barely exist. There are no roads, electricity or phones. The hills are still patrolled by Shining Path rebels, and drug traffickers flaunt the state’s absence. Today’s Shining Path only numbers in the hundreds, taxes the cocaine trade and still has a reputation for cultivating local farmers.
Authorities in distant Lima have been painfully slow to dispatch teams to dig up the dead from a brutal conflict that, according to a 2003 truth commission report, claimed an estimated 70,000 lives. Just over half were slain by Maoist-inspired rebels, over a third by security forces, the commission found. In November, forensic anthropologists began their work in the Chungui district and expect to remove 202 bodies in all — mostly women and children. At least 1,384 people were killed in Chungui, which is slightly larger than Hong Kong geographically but has only 6,000 inhabitants. — Read More
Photos by Rodrigo Abd/AP
Dear President Obama,
I am Ju Hong, the “heckler” that interrupted your speech at the Betty Ong Center in San Francisco last week. I spoke up not out of disrespect, however, either for you or our country. No, I spoke up — and am writing to you now — to ask that you use your executive order to halt deportations for 11.5 million undocumented immigrant families.
My family came to the United States from South Korea when I was 11 years old. Like many immigrants, my mother brought me to this country to seek a better life for her children.
I graduated from UC Berkeley, and am now pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Administration at San Francisco State University. I have lived in America now for 13 years. I consider this country as my home. During my senior year in high school, however, I learned that my family had overstayed a tourist visa. We are undocumented immigrants.
As an American without papers, I was not able to get a job, obtain a driver’s license, or receive governmental financial aid. When my mother was sick and in severe pain, she did not visit a doctor because she cannot procure medical insurance. And when my family’s home was burglarized, she refused to call the police because she was afraid that our family would be turned over to immigration officials and deported.
Like many other undocumented immigrants, I was living in the shadows and living in fear of deportation. However, I have decided to speak out and stand up.
Immigration reform is not only a Latino issue, it’s also an Asian and Pacific Islander issue — in fact, it is a human rights issue. Currently, two million of the estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in our country come from Asia. Under your administration, 250,000 undocumented Asian/Pacific Islander immigrants have been deported. While we only make up five percent of the country, we are disproportionately impacted by your immigration policies.
Last week, I was formally invited by White House staff to hear your remarks on immigration reform in San Francisco. As I stood in the stands behind you, I was hoping to hear about your plan to address the lives of 11 million undocumented people living in this country, like my family. And while you expressed your support for comprehensive immigration reform, you did not address how an average of 1,100 immigrants are deported every single day under your administration. You did not address how you deported 205,000 parents of U.S. citizens in the last two years. You did not address how, because of your administration’s record number of deportations—nearly two million immigrants in five years, a record—families are being torn apart: spouses are being separated from each other, parents are being separated from their children, and our brothers and sisters are being separated from one another. You did not to address how your administration would end the anti-immigration deportation programs like “Secure Communities." You’ve deported more people than any other president in the U.S. history.
Interestingly, you talked about Angel Island during your speech. What you did not mention, however, is that more people are detained every single day in detention today than were detained yearly at Angel Island. You recognized Angel Island as a dark period in Chinatown’s history, but you failed to recognize that more Asians and Pacific Islanders are in detention today than were in detention under the Chinese Exclusion Act. In fact, your administration detains up to 34,000 people per day, a record number of detainees in U.S. history.
Because you failed to address these issues, I was compelled to address the concerns of our community.
You claim that the President of the United States has no authority to stop the deportations. And yet, in June 2012, before the 2012 election, which you won with the help of Latino and Asian voters, you implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. With the stroke of a pen, you dramatically changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people like me who can now live without the daily threat of deportation, and can legally work in this country for the first time in our lives.
I know that you support comprehensive immigration reform. But I also know that you have the power to stop the deportations, and that you have the power to stop the suffering, fear, and intimidation facing millions of immigrants like my family.
Your fellow American,
All immigrants should read this, and know about the deportation spike. Investigate journalists should do a story on how the deportation of parents affects their children - if they have no other relatives in the U.S.A., do they enter the foster care system? What will the fallout be for all these young people down the line?
The Bruschetta-bout it Burger
Season 2, Episode 9: Beefsquatch
Although not technically a burger of the day, Bob makes this burger on the morning show Get On Up.
Dedicated to making the amazing chalkboard posted burgers in Bobs Burgers. I am renewed with faith in humanity and thankful to be alive in the Age of Tumblr.