The University of Wisconsin Press

Memoir / Latin America / History / Politics / Human Rights

The Inferno
A Story of Terror and Survival in Chile
Luz Arce
Translated by Stacey Alba Skar

Living in Latin America
Robert M. Levine, Series Editor

The Inferno is a searing and haunting memoir of one woman’s journey through the hell of Pinochet’s torture chambers and secret police.”
—Peter Winn, Tufts University

As a member of Salvador Allende’s Personal Guards (GAP), Luz Arce worked with leaders of the Socialist Party during the Popular Unity Government from 1971 to 1973. In the months following the coup, Arce, with others from the Left, opposed the military junta led by Augusto Pinochet, which controlled the country from 1973 to 1990. Along with thousands of others, Arce was detained and tortured by Chile’s military intelligence service, the DINA, in their attempt to eliminate alternative voices and ideologies in the country. Arce’s testimonial offers the harrowing story of the abuse she suffered and witnessed as a survivor of detention camps.

But when faced with threats made to her family, and to her young son, Arce began to collaborate with the Chilean military in their repression of national resistance groups and outlawed political parties. Her testimonial thus also offers a unique perspective from within, as she tells of her work as a DINA agent, which led to the capture of some of her former friends and compañeros.

During Chile’s return to democracy in the early 1990s, Arce experienced two fundamental changes in her life that led to the writing of her story. The first was a deep spiritual renewal through her contacts with the Catholic Church whose Vicariate of Solidarity had fought for human rights in the country during the dictatorship. The second was her decision to participate within the legal system to identify and bring to justice those who were responsible for the crimes committed from 1973 to 1990.

“Arce’s testimony offers a chilling and in-depth look at the human condition.”
Robert M. Levine

Powerful reading. . . . A devastating book . . . [that] itself became part of an important controversy within Chile at the time of its appearance, about whether former leftists and secret police collaborators should be welcomed or rejected in society, and by whom.”
Steve Stern, author of Peru’s Indian Peoples and the Challenge of Spanish Conquest

Luz Arce is a freelance writer living in Santiago, Chile.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

April 2004
LC: 2003020532 F
360 pp. 6 x 9

ISBN 978-0-299-19550-2
Book icon
Paper $24.95 x
ISBN 978-0-299-19554-0
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
  Review cart contents
Secure checkout

Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.

Updated 10/2/2014

© 2013 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System