The Eye that Cries

The Eye That Cries

El Ojo que Llora, The Eye That Cries is a memorial to the victims of Peru’s internal armed conflict 1980-2000 by Lika Mutal, Dutch-born Peruvian sculptor, installed in Campo de Marte, Lima, Peru

After such conflict,
there is only this quiet space,
not a bridge, but a separation, like a moat,
between what cannot be, and what is.
Past a grassy knoll, in the heart
of the labyrinth’s circuit,
sits the ancient, jagged stone of Mother Earth
in a pool formed by the spill of water
forever flowing from her rocky eye.

The twisting journey of reflection
leads each soul in single file
along the path of collective memory
bordered by thousands of identical stones.

Here every eye-shaped stone
is inscribed with a name and date,
even if names and dates are a way
not to remember, but to forget
what part in the fight each one took.

Those strangers with dark, wrinkled faces
and bowler hats, their legs bowed
as if they’d just stepped off a ship
into the fogs of the coastal capital,
and not traveled down from distant highlands
where the air is thin and cold and hard to breathe,
and legacies of violence live on side by side.

It wasn’t so much what they’d come to find
as what they’d come to lose—
that instinctive fear, like an animal’s,
giving off a harsh scent.
Knowing that their grief
at last can speak its name.

A note about the events that inspired “The Eye that Cries”

“Organizers and militants of Sendero Luminoso, or the Shining Path, Peru’s notorious guerrilla movement,waged armed conflict from the early 1980s until the mid- 1990s. By then, the government had captured and jailed much of Sendero’s top leadership. The conflict claimed almost 70,000 lives and destroyed and displaced entire communities. Both Senderistas and the army conducted massacres…..The vast majority of those who lived in terror and with terror were indigenous peasants of the Peruvian highlands, physically and socially quite distanced from the dominant Peruvian metropolis of Lima….‘The memorial [i]s a beautiful, arresting sculpture that powerfully evoke[s] the suffering of all Peruvians who continue to struggle through painful reconciliation in the wake of the terrorism and violence.’”

-Katherine Hite, “The Eye that Cries:”
The Politics of Representing Victims in Contemporary Peru. A Contra Corriente. Vol. 5, No. 1, Fall 2007, 108-134

Photos courtesy of Brandeis University.

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