‘We are not beggars. I am not here for you to cast your pity at me like breadcrumbs tossed to a cripple. Because I know you’re listening to me; and my voice won’t be silent, not yet.’
Tejas Verdes (‘Green Gables’), once a sea-side resort, was an infamous Chilean torture and detention centre during the early years following the Pinochet coup in 1973. Fermín Cabal’s humane and powerful play traces the life of a young woman who vanished one night in Santiago. Beneath the tolling of the church bells, her voice and the voices of those who share her story ring out with poetic beauty and overwhelming love.
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Ois's heart skipped a beat in her chest. Naming Ceremony! What would her name be?? She scurried down the long, glossy hallway and stepped into a huge room, like a cathedral. There were rows and rows of seats, and up near the very end was a podium where a hook-nosed woman with blonde hair stood. She tilted the microphone toward her lips to test it. Once she had, she signaled to the people in the wings that it was good. She turned briskly toward the crowds of students and parents waiting, smiling politely as they settled down, then started to speak. Asi gripped Ois's hand.<br> "Welcome all to this year's Base407 Naming Ceremony."<br> Parents and students alike clapped loudly. Ois was now so nervous she thought she was going to wet herself all over those expensive jeans.<br> "This year, though, we are doing something different," the woman continued, over a widespread intake of breath. "The government of Base407 has devised a new method of inducting children into the adult community. This year, and forever more, we shall be testing."<br> Students looked horrified. Ois's stomach lurched. Adults stared up at the blonde woman with rapt attention.<br> "Do not worry, the tests are specially designed to be stress free. They are made with your child's success in mind. Each First Year will come up next to me and then be led to a back room to be tested. Thank you." She smiled at the crowd, who were clapping halfheartedly. Her teeth were small and pointed, like a shark's. She then called out the first name: "Syk Nellier!"<br> A small, wiry boy with curly dark hair stood up. Gulping, he made his way to the podium. Two men in white robes escorted him to a metal door with menacing-looking locks. One man took him inside, the other man bolted all the padlocks and chains shut across the doorknob. There was the faint noise of wailing inside, then dead silence.<br> The woman was unfazed. "Ekka Denbon!"<br> The chubby boy stumbled up, and Ois could see the dark stain spreading over the back of his pants. His face was as white as the men's robes as they took him to another room.<br> "Eni Poorti!"<br> "Swe Gree!"<br> "Min Porora!"<br> "Ret Zeniu!"<br> "Guj Awsiro<br> "Ves Qwert!"<br> "Tio Terena!"<br> And so on. With each name announced, Ois became more and more fearful.<br> "Xek Cuboe!"<br> "Daw Beffra!"<br> "Weh Zenpi!"<br> Ois waited, heart racing, fingertips cold.<br> "Asi Dercora!"<br> Asi sashayed down the isle like a supermodel. If she was afraid, she didn't show it.<br> "Mer Qehasa!"<br> "Ois Senoke!"<br> Ois stood shakily. All eyes were on her. She walked, as if in slow motion, up to the podium where the woman stood. "Good luck, honey," she whispered with a leer. Ois was too terrified to even open her mouth. Two men gripped each of her arms and took her away to a room. One man stayed behind, the other led her in. The only thing her foggy brain could hear were the woman's voice and the gentle clink-clink of the locks and bolts being slid into place. <p> <p> <p> She was trapped.