Peru: Pilar Coll Torrente

I cannot imagine peace without the respect for all human rights.

— Pilar Coll Torrente

Pilar Coll Torrente is inspired by her own life: by the impact of the Spanish Civil War and by her residence in Peru. She traveled from Spain to work as a volunteer in Peru and has remained in the country for 38 years, half of her entire life. In her new country, she has created the Social Service School and the Human Rights Service. She has given form and strength to the National Coordination for Human Rights (Cnddhh). Today, she brings hope and faith to women in prison. She is interested, above all, in justice. Pilar herself feels that she is very Peruvian.

Pilar Coll Torrente was born in Fonz, a village in rural Spain. Her childhood and youth were marked by the Spanish Civil War, during which her father was killed. She is the only survivor of seven brothers and sisters. She arrived in Peru in 1967. She was the Director of the Social Service School, in Trujillo, and she taught religion to poor girls. During that time, she was influenced by the Theology of Liberation. In Lima, she worked for the Episcopal Commission for Social Action (Ceas), and she worked in the poor neighborhood of El Agustino. In 1987, she took on the responsibility of Executive Secretary of the National Coordination for Human Rights (Cnddhh). “I have always had to make things from scratch, as in the Social Service School, the Episcopal Commission for Social Action and, later on, with the National Coordination for Human Rights.” These were very violent times. Subversive groups like the Sendero Luminoso and the Revolutionary Movement Tupac Amaru (Mrta) spread death and pain throughout every region of Peru. Pilar Coll Torrente helped many people escape into exile. Because of that, she suffered abuses by the Peruvian military. However, that did not stop her. The National Coordination for Human Rights pressed the Organization of American States (OAS) into examining the dictatorship lead by Alberto Fujimori, which began in 1992. The Peruvian Commission for Truth and Reconciliation states that, “the victims of 20 years of violations of human rights in Peru are mainly poor and indigenous people.” Pilar says, “If we want peace and justice we must give those people back their names and their words.” She made public the terrible conditions in the women's prison of Santa Mónica and managed to achieve certain improvements. There is a dedication to her that says: “We have received enough heat from your hands so as not to lose our way in the darkness.”

La Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos (Cnddhh) The Bartolomé House Center