15 August 1984

Dear Papa,

Mama died last week. Every conscious minute I spend is in absolute grief. The two days following her death, I was in utter shock. Unbelieving. It catapulted me back to the day Simon was disappeared. A feeling of loss— free floating in an existence that ceased to belong to my body. The best way I can describe it is that moment when someone takes a rug out from under your feet and for an instant your entire being hovers a few inches off of the ground and part of you knows the impact is coming, but in that suspended moment your mind is blank, unable to register exactly what lies in wait when your body will hit the floor. I hit the floor today, once for Mama, and a second time for Simon.

I’ve never mentioned this to anyone, but I cannot bear this image on my own any longer—

I saw Simon’s dead body, Papa, about a month after he was disappeared. His violently mutilated body, washed up, strewn about like an old piece of garbage that someone failed to put in a trash can. His eyes…I don’t know how much of this I can write…It’s so…his eyes, gazing toward the cloudy sky as if looking to alleviate himself from what must have been such a horrible, horrible…

I can’t make it any further. I’m truly at a loss for words. Memories have such a way of engulfing the present moment. They entrap me in rage, hatred, and sadness. For many years I’ve been fueling this into my work. I don’t know if I ever told you what I’ve become, Papa. I took over Martina’s small restaurant. So, I make empanadas, day after day. It’s rhythmic and soothing. I like to think the empanadas provide some pockets of comfort for those who come in to eat them, especially during these dismal years. I still remember the day Martina told me I had a knack for making them. She said I put some ingredient of myself into the dough that people could appreciate, a comforting warmth. She told me she thought it was hope. Back then, I scoffed. But, now, I like to think she may have been right.

The air is buzzing with energetic undertones. More and more of the working class is coming together in opposition after the plunge that the economy took a few years back. Good one, Pinochet, way to put those Chicago Boys to work… I’ve started a communal bakery at Martina’s on Tuesday and Thursday nights as a means of organizing the people in the neighborhood around grassroots opposition to get us out of this authoritarian nightmare. I’m surprised and incredibly pleased at how many people have been coming out to the meetings as of late. There are so many young people. And women too. There is one woman, Clara, who is quite beautiful. Her skin glows with the essence of a natural leader. Strong and stubborn, the younger women look up to her very much, I can tell. Mama would be proud to see to all the young girls. I lead with her spirit. I think it will help me deal with her absence. And I think that’s what she would have wanted too.

Much love, your son,

Joaquin Oliveras Vidal

1 thought on “15 August 1984

  1. ssvolk says:

    Hi, Joaquín. I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your mamá…and so sorry to hear that you did find Simón, and in such a condition that no one should have to witness. But maybe that’s what we are – witnesses to some time in the future when we can look back at this moment and see what happened. I remember how much you loved history – we’ll, maybe we’re witnesses for history. I’m so excited to hear about your bakery and Tuesday’s at Martina’s. I’ll make it a point to stop by there some day and to buy what must be some amazing empanadas.

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