LONDRES 38


I did not enter

cuffed blindfolded

eyes taped

under sunglasses

I did not wear

the clothes

stripped from corpses

rank with electric sweat

I did not learn

to tell the time

of day and night

by what the DINA ate

I did not bleed

from gums

spitting teeth

like orange pips

I did not flinch

when tools

wrenched fingernails

hammered ears deaf

I did not clamp

my tongue

as they flicked the switch

razorsliced my breast

I did not gag

on choking bile

from holding down

the names

I did not watch

my mother writhe

tied to the metal frame

sprung with rats

I did not hang

from fleshtorn feet

hooded head

drowning in excrement

I did not disappear

Londres 38 is a building in Santiago, Chile. From September 1973 ill the end of 1975 it was used by the dictatorship era secret police, DINA, as a clandestine detention and torture centre.

An estimated 2000 people were illegally detained in the house. 98 were subsequently disappeared, including 14 women, two of whom were pregnant.

Of the 98 victims, 64 were members of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR.)

81 of the 98 were under 30 years old, and eight were under 20.

Of the four major clandestine torture centres in Santiago it is the only one that was not destroyed and has been reclaimed as an active memory site open to the public.

Annie McCrae was born in Dumfries and is now based in Edinburgh.

She was an EIS school representative and national organiser of her union.

A number of her poems were published in the 2008 pamphlet Magistri Pro Pace (Teachers for Peace) and she has read her work at anti-war, Palestine Solidarity and International Women's Day events.

This poem marks the emotional response I had to visiting the site of one of Pinochet’s detention and torture centres in Santiago last year.

So many of the people who were detained there were young students and student teachers like I was in the 70’s. If I had been Chilean I might well have ended up there. We spoke to a young man who volunteered as a guide to the building. We told him that we were from Scotland and had been Chilean solidarity supporters and of the actions of the Rolls Royce workers in East Kilbride and the film Nae Pasaran.

He became very emotional and kept thanking us for being there and for all our support and solidarity. I was in tears as I left.

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