My husband came back from his dinghy ride in the Inner Harbour yesterday with a tale of a very large sailboat at the cruise ship terminal at Ogden Point. Later last night, we went together to see this beautiful ship.
The top of her masts came into view quite a distance away from the terminal. This was a big ship. Her name was visible on the stern: La Esmeralda and she was flying the Chilean flag. We noticed people on deck looking like they had just boarded the ship – perhaps for a cruise we surmised. As we slowly motored our 8 foot dinghy beside the 371′ Esmeralda, it became apparent that this was no ordinary ship. My Ship Finder app identified her as a military ship and she had two large guns on her starboard side. I assumed that there was a matching pair on the port side.
It wasn’t until I saw a link on Twitter today that I learned of this ship’s horrible past. During the military coup (1973-80) of Augusto Pinochet, men and women were held prisoner aboard this ship and tortured. Some of those victims did not survive the experience.
Numerous groups including Amnesty International have been working to persuade the Chilean government to take responsibility for these atrocities, but to no avail. Consequently, La Esmeralda’s tour of various ports is often met with opposition and protest. Until her horrible past is acknowledged and restitution made, this beautiful lady carries the burden of a regime’s violent past. The ship is not at fault; the men who committed these crimes are.
Many countries including Canada have learned that in order to move forward, you have to admit the mistakes of past governments. You have to say this is wrong and we are sorry. As a society, we will not stop committing these crimes against people until we agree that this is not acceptable.
Although I can understand people’s misplaced outrage at the presence of Esmeralda in Victoria, blame not the lady, but the men who sailed her during this dark period of Chile’s history. She is a beautiful ship.