Villa Grimaldi was a complex of buildings used for the interrogation and torture of political prisoners by DINA, the Chilean secret police, during the government of Augusto Pinochet. The complex was located in Peñalolén, in the outskirts of Santiago, and was in operation from mid-1974 to mid-1978. About 5,000 detainees were brought to Villa Grimaldi during this time, at least 240 of whom were "disappeared" or killed by DINA.
Since 1940 the property had belonged to Emilio Vasallo, who ran it as a restaurant which became a popular meeting place for intellectuals and artists. Vasallo's daughter was arrested by the Army shortly after the coup of 1973. The family surrendered the land to the Army to prevent the torture of their daughter.
Villa Grimaldi is an extensive plot of land and its buildings, now demolished, were enlarged to accommodate the center’s additional functions. Apparently, the first prisoners arrived in mid-1974 although their volume did not become more regular until later that year. Around the summer of 1975, Villa Grimaldi became the Metropolitan Intelligence Brigade(BIM)'s center of operations, in charge of internal repression in Santiago.
Operative teams had their quarters at Villa Grimaldi. They brought prisoners there for initial interrogation after arrest and devices specially designed for different forms of torture were kept there. Victims included Carlos Lorca, the British physician Sheila Cassidy, the MAPU leader Juan Maino, the CEPAL diplomat Carmelo Soria, and the ex President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, who was tortured with her mother. Prisoners who were not subject to torture were also kept there, sometimes for long periods, awaiting possible new interrogations or a decision on their fate.
As the number of prisoners increased, new structures were built to hold them. The conditions of these apparently differed depending on the state of the arrested individual and the effects the DINA wanted to produce in him or her. The Rettig Commission visited this site and, although the main buildings were demolished, the following description of Villa Grimaldi could be confirmed through studying the distribution of ruins and foundations:
|“||The day begins with a breakfast of boiling tea in a small metal container and half a bread. Lunch is at midday, soup with potato skins floating around in it and pieces of carrots. Sometimes we eat the agents' leftovers, with olive pits, bits of fish and fishbones mixed in with it. Almost impossible to swallow. The screams and moans take your appetite away. But we're forced to do it. Meanwhile, they never stop calling people to the "parrilla" (the "grill" torture method), to endless interrogations... It is a world of contrasts. Guards play the guitar to the sound of the wailing, while in a corner, lying on the floor, Manuel Diaz, alias "El Tano" is dying, little by little... ||”|
Villa Grimaldi's buildings (particularly its Main House, a construction from mid 19th century) were destroyed during the last days of the military dictatorship, presumably to destroy evidence of the crimes that were committed there. The location is now the site of the Villa Grimaldi Park for Peace, a National Monument dedicated to human rights and the memory of the victims of DINA. Some structures from the detention center remain, such as a swimming pool, and parts of the original wall that surrounded the site; some have been re-created (notably the watchtower and some representative detention cells). As of 2006 there were plans to build a museum on the site.
See also 
- Valech Report
- Marshall, Robyn (July 30, 2003). "Villa Grimaldi: A symbol of pain transformed". Green Left Weekly (547) (Sydney).
- Official biography of M. Bachelet on Chilean governmental website (Spanish)
- Ortuzar, Carmen; Otero, Marcela. (1986) "La Guerra Oculta: Detenidos-Desaparecidos, Capítulo 3. Recintos Secretos." Revista Hoy (445)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Villa Grimaldi|
- Official Villa Grimaldi Park for Peace website
- Pictures of the Villa Grimaldi site
- Pictures Villa Grimaldi (2007)