New Statesman

Long search for the disappeared

Calama is a quiet, provincial town 1,000 miles north of Santiago, the capital of Chile. It was here in the town theatre on 17 October that grieving widows, mothers, sisters and daughters gathered to bear witness to the men they lost 30 years ago.


The women’s story starts where the men’s story ends, on 19 October 1973. General Arellano Stark, under orders from General Pinochet, arrived in Calama by helicopter to consolidate the military’s grip on northern Chile. Stark’s mission, which became known as the “Caravan of Death”, left 72 dead across four cities. Calama was the final stop on his schedule. Men were executed and their bodies dumped in the unrelenting dust of the Atacama Desert surrounding Calama.

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