March 1990:

Patricio Alywin, in the first democratic election since the coup, replaced Pinochet

as President of Chile. However, Pinochet still remains head of the military. By June of that same

year, the remains of fifty people were discovered in mass graves through out Chile. In Pisagua

alone, a town north of Calama, twenty-one bodies of local men were found. Due to the extremely

dry climate and high concentration of nitrates in the earth, the bodies were so well preserved that

mostwere easily identifiable.

With the change of government, more witnesses were willing to come forward. As a result of

one such incident, On July 19th, 1990 the women were finally led to a mass grave site fifteen

kilometers from Calama. Now began a new nightmare - the process of identification. Unlike

Pisagua, the bodies were not whole. It was determined that the men had been crushed by military

bulldozers in the 1980's in an attempted cover-up to remove and transport the bodies elsewhere.

What the women found were fragments of fingers, sections of spines and jaws, pieces of skin, bits

of clothing, and strands of hair. These remains were sent to a forensic lab in Santiago in the hopes

that some identifications could be made. One man was identified, Haroldo Cabrera by a finger tip

alone, his print was still clear.

In February of 1991, the forensic lab returned a portion of the remains which were

unidentifiable. The women received sixty-one small bags each filled with different body parts. The

bags arrived in three cardboard boxes measuring two by three feet. The women placed the boxes in

a single coffin which they carried to the cemetery.

Paula Allen, Copyright 1996