The Cantuta case highlighted among other cases of disappearences for political means because it happened to be very prolific on images. Those appeared periodically in the media, grabbing public attention as a detective plot: first the hand drawn map, then the charred remain, next the keys found in the mass grave and so on. Image #1: Revista Sí, edition 332, july 8th 1993.
For the “Gloria Evaporada” series I based in one of these images: once the mock trial against Grupo Colina ended, the forensic police returned the remains of the 10 desaparecidos to their families. This was done in plain cardboard boxes, most of them of a Peruvian brand of evaporated canned milk, Gloria. The company used to distribute the cans in these boxes. Image #2: Eduardo Villanes, "Gloria Evaporada" (1994). Stills of the video of the delivery of the remains of the Cantuta massacre.
The boxes and cans of "leche Gloria" were common to see in the urban landscape of Lima and other Peruvian cities during the 90s. They were usually reused in many ways by people of low income. The Gloria corporation once published a book about its corporative history, devoting a whole chapter to this popular culture phenomena. Coincidentally, the book was published same year the Cantuta massacre happened. Image #3: "Nuestra Leche. Gloria y el Desarrollo Ganadero del Sur". Arequipa: Universidad Nacional San Agustín - Fundación José Rodriguez Banda, 1993.
But the book did not mention a very common use the box had: as trash container, maybe because Gloria corporation didn´t want to connect its product with such an use. Photo: Eduardo Villanes. "Basureros". 1994.
The fact that body remains were delivered in vile cardboard boxes received little attention by the reporters covering the event that day. Maybe because it was an irrelevant detail to the case. It was neither interpreted as an act of contempt from the regime against the families, as it is claimed now. I think it was just an unconscious expression of the deeply rooted disregard that Peruvians from metropolitan areas have against ethnicities of the Andean and Amazonian parts of the country. They used to migrate massively to the most developed cities, located on the coastline, escaping from poverty and violence. The victims of la Cantuta massacre, as well as the majority of students of state owned universities at that time, belonged to this inmigrant population. Even nowadays, body remains of the desaparecidos of the 80s and 90s internal war, that are still being discovered, are usually transported in cardboard boxes recicled from the industry, without causing any ethic repudy....like in Motta brand panettone boxes. Image #4 and #5: Miguel Mejía. "50 Cuerpos de Víctimas del Terror Regresan a su Comunidad". La República, april 25th 2016.
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