Guapo’y Review – Paraguay’s Past Scars Revealed Through Healing Plants

Guapo’y Review – Paraguay’s Past Scars Revealed Through Healing Plants

Sofia Paoli Thorne’s documentary, “Guapo’y,” is a poignant exploration of Paraguay’s dark history under the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, revealed through the lens of healing plants. The film opens with a serene yet powerful image of Celsa, a woman in her 60s, applying herbal remedies to her back, which bears the faded scars of her past. This scene is not just a nightly routine; it is a testament to her survival and resilience. Celsa was once imprisoned in the infamous Emboscada prison, a concentration camp during Stroessner’s brutal regime.

Celsa’s story is deeply intertwined with the horrors of the past. Before she was imprisoned, her mother had already endured the torment of Emboscada. Their reunion in the camp was a mix of joy and sorrow, compounded by the fact that Celsa was pregnant with her son, Derlis, who was born in the prison. The film captures the harrowing testimonies of Celsa and her mother, recounting the unbearable heat, relentless torture, and severe neglect they faced. These stories are heart-wrenching, yet Thorne juxtaposes them with the tranquil scenes of Celsa’s current life, where she meticulously tends to her plants and prepares herbal cures. Despite the scars, both physical and emotional, the process of healing has begun.

Thorne’s film underscores that the past’s ghosts can never fully disappear. This is evident when the radio broadcasts the voice of Mario Abdo Benítez, the then-president of Paraguay, expressing admiration for Stroessner’s policies. The film’s title, “Guapo’y,” refers to a resilient tree that once stood in the Emboscada camp, serving as a gathering spot for prisoners. This tree was cut down in 2013, symbolizing the erasure of history. Under its branches, prisoners secretly recorded tapes documenting the camp’s violence and conditions. The film concludes with one of these recordings, a haunting reminder of the past that seeks to awaken the present from its historical amnesia.

“Guapo’y” is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of remembering history. Through the lens of healing plants, Thorne reveals the deep scars of Paraguay’s past and the ongoing process of healing. The film is a testament to the strength of those who survived and a call to ensure that such atrocities are never forgotten.

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