Puppies in Torture Chambers

Puppies in Torture Chambers, 2010

The photographic series Puppies in Torture Chambers is based on encounters with children living in an abandoned military facility who play in the former bunkers there. They told about ghosts and strange sounds in the cellars, where the junta used to torture and murder its prisoners. Fort Borgoño, which belongs to the military base in Talcahuano, served as a torture camp between 1973 and 1975. But there are also reports that the Chilean secret service also tortured its imprisoned and abducted victims here from 1984 to 1985. Between 40 and 50 people were jailed in the complex; the prisoners were held captive in cement cells measuring six by two meters and containing one small window, usually in groups of eight. They were forced to sleep on the bare cement and were hardly fed. Their stay lasted between one and twelve days, during which they were brutally tortured. They were subsequently relocated to the island prison of Quiriquina Tome or released on parole after signing a document stating that they were not mistreated.

Documents prove that political prisoners were systematically tortured here. The methods included waterboarding, electroshocks, beatings, death threats, rape, and severe physical and psychological abuse. The tortured were hung upside-down from trees, or tied to jeeps and dragged across a football field. One particularly infamous course was called the “rug.” Prisoners were tied up and forced to climb over obstacles blindfolded while being beaten.

Puppies in Torture Chambers is a series of black and white photographs that depicts the children on their excursions through the cellars, where they also play with a litter of newborn puppies. In this visual essay, Pablo Zuleta Zahr, child during the Dictatorship captures  the ghostly aspect of the location with its many layers of past and present, innocence and brutality.