The Blessing Is Next To The Wound

A conversation with Hector Aristiz?bal about torture and transformation

| October 20, 2005

Torture survivor Hector Aristiz?bal grew up in Medell?n, an impoverished Colombian city torn by civil war and the cocaine mafia. With the mandate of the Estatuto de Seguridad, which writer Diane Lefer likens to a Colombian Patriot Act, the military took Aristiz?bal into custody and subjected him to unimaginable torture.

Though this experience became a powerful force in Aristiz?bal's life and thought, he is careful not to let it define him. In an interview with Lefer in The Sun, Aristiz?bal explains that he sees his torture as an ordeal, like any other, rather than a christening into lifelong victimization. The experience did give him focus, however, from living a life merely trying to survive in a dangerous city, to living a life desiring meaning.

After escaping to the United States in 1989, he co-founded the Los Angeles Center for Theatre of the Oppressed, in addition to his work as a therapist for torture survivors. Though he remains deeply angered by the prevalence of torture and, in particular, the United States' use of legal loopholes that allow torture to continue, he sees his work today as creating a forum for 'imagination and conversation and listening,' rather than merely preaching prescriptively.
-- Ty Otis

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