Monday, April 11, 2005

Trees for the Disappeared

From Ecomemoria:
Lambeth Road receives ‘trees’ in memory of Chile’s ‘disappeared’ victims.

This ceremony, the second to take place in London, counted with the presence of Jeremy Corbyn MP and Simon Hughes MP, who were more than happy to be closing their elective terms by planting new seed in the capital. Trees for Cities and Southwark Council, in co-operation with ‘ecomemoria’ planted 9 London Plane trees in Lambeth Road were approx 120 people gathered to participate in commemorating the lives of 9 ‘disappeared’ victims of the Chilean military dictatorship (1973-1990).

The project ‘ecomemoria’ has planted 93 trees to date across 6 countries allowing relatives of victims a new form of claiming space. Not only are we all to bare witness to the existence of these victims, who were presumably wiped out by the coup, but the public is reminded through the ceremonial process of sowing new life -with spade and shovel in hand -, that together we can breath life back into memory. Wendy Bell, sister of one of the ‘disappeared’ victims Ernesto Torres, gave an emotional outpour:

“…on my return from a recent visit to Chile [October 1998], I found that it was not only our loved ones who had been made to ‘disappear’.”

Ms. Bell spoke of the catharsis experienced when former dictator and Head of State Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London, 16 October 1998. His arrest sparked a campaign to support extradition proceedings to Spain where he was to be put on trial for torture and murder indictments. At the protest in London, exiled Chileans alongside portraits of victims of the military dictatorship lined Parliament Square until his return to Chile, 3 March 2000, where he has yet to give evidence in court.

Ms. Bell explained how amongst the victims’ faces at Parliament Square “…I came across my brother’s face for the first time in a long time. …Precisely because my brother was adopted, I know that it is not the blood flowing through our veins which connects us. We are all affected collectively whether we have a ‘disappeared’ relative of not”.

Jacko Sarmiento, representing his ‘disappeared’ brother Hernán, said “There are values, taken from us in 1973, that should be redistributed to us. Just like the Nazis lied and justice came and found them, the Chilean people need a process where someone is named as accountable for assassinating so and so, or which ever crime they committed. This is not about compensation by the State, but about accountability on behalf of the guilty – whether they be civilians who kept quiet or military who gave orders”.

At the ceremony, lasting approx. an hour, passers by stopped to watch as the second generation of exiled Chileans unveiled the plaques accompanying each tree. Jeremy Corbyn MP lamented that although this was a beautiful event “we should not have to be here today”, reminding us that human atrocities should be a thing of the past.

Whilst the families of the 9 victims now have somewhere to go and visit their loved ones, the public is also invited by ecomemoria to get to know who they were and can still be, as their story unfolds in the new trees lining Lambeth Road. The 9 trees begin at the Junction between St George’s Circus and Lambeth Road, and stretch by the Bus waiting bay to the entrance of St George’s Catholic Church.

Ecomemoria -
Memoriaviva -

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