Villa Grimaldi was a torture and detention site which now serves as a memory park. It was originally an estate belonging to a Socialist Party member. However, it was confiscated during the dictatorship and used as a torture and detention site from 1973 until 1978. Located in Peñalolén in the outskirts of Santiago, the site opened as a public memorial in 1994 for those whose lives were lost there. Some of the buildings used for torture were reconstructed and some of the original features of the site were kept. Visitors can see the tower where prisoners were brought to the top and tortured, many sexually assaulted, before their death. Usually these prisoners were high profile detainees. Visitors can also see replicas of small chambers where prisoners were forced to cram six naked bodies inside for days at a time. The pool where prisoners were thrown and drowned has been restored, serving as a painful reminder of the torments which took place at Villa Grimaldi (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Grimaldi).
In addition to these physical reminders of the horrors that occurred at Villa Grimaldi, there are memorial sites for those who fought the dictatorship and lost their lives in doing so. There is a large plaque at the back of the park with the names of the individuals who are known to have lost their lives there. There is also a rose garden called “Tribute to Women” dedicated to the women who were victims of sexual assault at Villa Grimaldi. The park also has monuments for the MIR (Revolutionary Left Movement) and the MAPU (Popular Unitary Action Movement), two groups who fought for human rights and strongly opposed Pinochet’s dictatorship. Villa Grimaldi has effectively transformed a place with a very dark past and turned it into a powerful site for memory and truth.
The Direction of National Intelligence (DINA) was responsible for the human rights abuses which occurred at Villa Grimaldi. While the group was formed in 1974 ostensibly to provide the government with information to develop and advance Chile, it quickly became a military unit which tortured and repressed political opponents of Pinochet. Many of the officials who worked at DINA were trained at the United States Army School of the Americas. DINA also participated in Operation Condor, an intelligence sharing operation forged among Southern Cone dictatorships, which helped target and eliminate opposition members abroad. Finally, most of DINA’s actions were kept secret, making it difficult to determine the exact authorship of human rights crimes, as they worked in collaboration with Chilean carabineros (police officers) and other government law enforcement groups (http://villagrimaldi.cl/historia/dina/).
When we visited Villa Grimaldi, we had the opportunity to hear the story of an ex-prisoner who was held at this site. He was a teenager when he was taken, blindfolded, and brought to Villa Grimaldi. He spent about 9 days suffering torture himself and hearing the screams of others who were held prisoner. When he was released, he was dropped off in the middle of Santiago with a small sum of money to get himself to safety. The release of prisoners not considered to be high risks to the dictatorship was often used as a warning to other opposition members. Despite being blindfolded, he was able to identify Villa Grimaldi as the site of his torture, as were other prisoners who have helped to recreate some of the dictatorship era structures of detention and torture within Villa Grimaldi, and share their histories as prisoners (http://villagrimaldi.cl/historia/).