Parque por la Paz
Parque por la Paz (in the 8300 block of José Arrieta, 11 a.m.–8:30 p.m. daily except Monday, admission is free) is the most subtly eloquent memorial to the Pinochet dictatorship’s victims.
During General Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, when more than 3,000 people were murdered or disappeared and as many as 400,000 others were detained and tortured, no single site evoked more fear than Villa Grimaldi, the largest detention and torture center.
Before the 1973 coup, Villa Grimaldi, in a then-isolated neighborhood, was a retreat popular with leftists and intellectuals. Appropriated by the dictatorship, between 1973 and 1980 it saw the deaths and disappearance of well over 200 people — though no bodies have been found there — and more than 5,000 detentions.
Villa Grimaldi also served as a training center for General Manuel Contreras’s infamous Directorio de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA, National Intelligence Directorate) and its successor, the Centro de Inteligencia Nacional (CNI, National Intelligence Center). It was also the Chilean headquarters for Operación Cóndor, a covert alliance with the so-called “security forces” of military dictatorships in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.
In the regime’s final days, when it became apparent that Pinochet had lost his bid to extend his “presidency,” the military bulldozed nearly every building to destroy evidence of Villa Grimaldi’s violent past and sold the property. But the nonprofit Fundación Parque por la Paz has transformed the property into a pilgrimage site that honors and remembers the victims without any overt political posturing. It has permanently locked the original streetside gates, by which prisoners entered the grounds, with a declaration that they are “never to be opened again.”
Several bus lines pass nearby: 242 from Avenida Providencia, 337 from Estación Central and the Alameda, and 433 from Plaza Italia.
Chip Travel (Av. Santa María 227, Oficina 12, tel. 02/7775376, www.chip.cl) is the only operator offering alternative “Human Rights Legacy” tours that take in Parque por la Paz, the Cementerio General, and the Fundación Pinochet.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition