I arrived in Ayacucho in pouring rain. Water flooded down streets, pooled in potholes, streamed off the baseball caps worn by the crowd of taxis drivers at the bus door. There was no messing around in this rain; I negotiated the fare and we set off through hilly streets and a mess of road work, mototaxis, pedestrians and street vendors.
Hotel Crillonesa did, indeed, come with a señora, of indeterminate age, brown eyes soft and youthful in her wrinkled face. I checked in, dropped my bags in the room, and then greeted her at the counter and asked if there was a branch of my bank in town. She leaned across the wooden countertop, squeezed my hand tight in both of hers, and apologised with intensity for not knowing.
I smiled, squeezed her hand back. Don’t worry, I told her. It’s nothing very important.
I walked out into the rain, and knew that, lacking the time to gain her trust and friendship, I would never have the courage to ask that woman to describe to me the horrors of the city’s past.
About year or so I wrote a creative non-fiction essay for Glimpse on Ayacucho, Peru: the heartland of terrorist group Sendero Luminoso during the twenty years of violence suffered in that country between 1980 and 2000. Reconciliation and justice after such horrendous epidodes are so difficult; it’s something I’d like to learn more about, especially here in Argentina given this country’s equally disturbing past. The rest of the article is here.