Con mi Corazon en Yambo

Last year I read a fiction novel by Nathan Englander called The Ministry of Special Cases. It follows a Jewish family in Argentina who are searching for their son who was ‘disappeared’ by the government. This was the nightmare of every family in Argentina at the time, and to have your seemingly normal, pot smoking, university student son kidnapped would be the end of your world. The book is brutal and you get drawn in, desperately wanting to help this family find out the fate of their son. Everyone in the government and police force plays stupid. Being the history buff that I am, I started researching these events and was blown away with what I found. Latin America in the 1970s and 80s experienced 90,000 of the disappearances.

  I highly recommend this book

People could be kidnapped and killed by the police for a variety of reasons, and the stories remind me of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. In the book The Ministry of Special Cases, it is because the son has some books in his bedroom that the government does not approve of. Ecuador does not have as bad of a history as other Latin American countries like Guatemala, Argentina, and El Salvador, but the police here did kidnap and ‘disappear’ around 25-30 people between 1985-1995.

There is a documentary airing in Ecuador right now about two brothers who were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the Ecuadorian police back in 1988. The younger sister, who is now in her 30s, wrote the film and includes family footage, interviews, and the story of her family’s quest to find the truth about what happened to Santiago and Andres Restrepo (14 and 17 years old). They have never been able to locate the bodies, but due to one truthful witness who is now in exile in the Netherlands, they have been able to determine that the boys were brought to a prison where they were tortured, murdered, and then their bodies were dumped in the lagoon of Yambo. Two scuba expeditions in the lagoon have failed to find the bodies.

The Restrepo Brothers

I did struggle a little throughout the movie because it was in Spanish with no subtitles, but for the most part I could understand. The family was originally from Colombia and were well off, which could explain why the sons were taken; maybe the government of Ecuador was suspicious. To this day, and despite two ‘Truth Commissions,’ no one in the police has ever admitted what happened to the sons. The father still sits in front of the presidential palace protesting the loss of his sons every Wednesday.
The Restrepo Parents

I guess all of this helps me to really appreciate having grown up in such a carefree environment in the States. I’ve never feared the government, I grew up in a climate where I could speak my mind and know that if you don’t approve of a politician or policy, you can change them. Living now in a place where the police could kidnap and murder innocent children and get away with it, I understand more the situations that people in other countries face.  This is completely broadening the way I think about things, the way I make decisions, the person I want to and can be.


  1. You should check out the film "Missing". It deals with that very subject. Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon. It is heartbreaking.


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