A Past Not Forgotten
Chile is an incredibly beautiful country, but there is no doubt that its history has been marked by some ugly events. Under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who was in power from 1973-1990, countless human rights violations were committed, including the torture and disappearing of people whose political ideals were not aligned with Pinochet’s regime. These events were inarguably atrocious, and they raise an important question: how does a country adequately deal with a past like this? The Chilean government and people have commemorated this somber history in various ways—and one of them is with the Parque por la Paz Villa Grimaldi.
This 3-acre estate, located on the outskirts of Santiago in the comuna Peñalolén, was originally an upscale complex used as a gathering space for Chile’s intellectual elite in the 19th and 20th centuries. There were meeting halls, a theater, and school, among other communal spaces that often hosted events for Chilean artists and academics. However, when Pinochet rose to power, his people pressured the estate’s owner to sell it to them. He did, and Pinochet’s secret police, DINA, took control of the space and began using it as an interrogation center. These interrogations often involved torture including electrical shocks, beating, and sexual abuse. The complex had varying structures that housed different types of torture devices. An estimated 4500 prisoners were interrogated at Villa Grimaldi, and at least 226 of them were among the individuals who were “disappeared” by Pinochet’s government. In 1978, the complex was sold to a construction company who planned to demolish it and build houses. However, some community groups led a movement to turn the area into a memorial site, which it is today.
Villa Grimaldi Today
The Parque por la Paz was inaugurated in 1997 as a tribute to those who suffered unthinkable acts at Villa Grimaldi. The park consists of a large, open outdoor plan as well as several indoor exhibits. Many features that existed during the dictatorship have been destroyed, but some of the existing remnants have become features of the Peace Park. Visitors can observe replicas of torture devices and spaces, such as the Chile Houses, tiny cabins where up to four people would be forced to live, totally immobile. There is a wall of names of torture victims as well as a memory room with artifacts and information about the tortured and disappeared people. Throughout the park, there are various artistic tributes to these people as well as the individuals who fought against these torturous practices under the Pinochet regime.
How To Get There
The park can be reached by Metro Plaza Engaña or buses 513 and D09. It is open from 10 am to 6pm every day of the year, and entrance is free. Guided tours are available but must be scheduled in advance and are only offered to groups of 10 or more. They must be booked at least a week in advance via the parks website, and are only available in Spanish. This isn’t the most tourist-friendly option, but don’t worry—if you’d like to visit the park, most of the artifacts and tributes are labeled with any information that a guide could tell you.