Letter

Dear Mama,

It is May 29, 1994 and I write this letter to you twenty years to the day from when you and Papa were taken. I write this letter for one reason: to remember, so that everyone can remember, so that everyone is forced to remember. The dictatorship may be gone, but its brutal legacy lives on and casts a dark shadow over our country.

I hope you can see me and hear me from wherever you are and I hope you’re proud of me. I’m married now and I have been for three going on four years. I may be young Mama, but you were only nineteen when you yourself fell in love with Papa and brought me into this world. My husband Edwin is wonderful, Mama. You would love him. You and Papa both would. He and our daughter Susana (yes Mama, you’re an Abuela now) are the two people in and of this world I love most. Susana is three; she turns four in October, on the anniversary of the triumph of the “No.” Did you see that, Mama? Did you see that small sliver of justice done that day on your behalf, on Papa’s behalf, and on the behalf of all whose lives were brutally snuffed out far too soon? We as a country still have a long way to go, but I am confident that, if not in my lifetime, then in my Susana’s lifetime, justice will be achieved.

I work every day for remembrance and truth; Edwin and I both do. We force Chile to remember you and your compañeros. We breathe life into the faded, black and white pictures that personify the disappeared, so that people can and will see them—see you—as more than a forgotten face and as more than just one of four thousand in our country who suffered the same hellish fate. We force Chile to remember all of the cruel and debasing treatment you suffered at the hands of torturers and assassins employed by the state, the same torturers and assassins who roam free due to laws created by them for their own benefit. They will never know the pain of loosing someone like I’ve lost you and Papa. They will never know the pain of never having an ounce of closure, of having their relatives’ fate remain in a permanent state of limbo, of being neither dead nor alive, but disappeared.

Mama, it sounds trite to say this, but I miss you and I think of you every single day. When my Susi asks about her abuela, I tell her all sorts of wonderful things. And when she asks where you are, I tell her you’re all around us, in everything we do. She’s very musical, just like Papa, and she loves to play on her xylophone for Edwin and I. I love to imagine her in a few years strumming on a guitar like Papa and playing his beloved Victor Jara songs, the ones he’d always play for you and me.

Where are you, Mama? I find myself constantly asking. Are you in the sea, among the waves that wash ashore on the beaches you so loved? Or are you underneath the huge shopping malls that sit on every corner of Santiago as permanent monuments to the bloody price our country had to pay for their existence? Or are you in the wind that blows across the snowcapped mountains of the nearby Andes? I may never know the real answer, but for now, you will remain in my heart and in my mind, my memories of you and your never-faltering kindness and compassion.

I love you Mama,

Your daughter Clarita





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