Posted by: Jena Davison | October 18, 2011

Con mi Corazón en Yambo

On Sunday night, I saw a powerful Ecuadorian documentary about the kidnapping and killing of two Ecuadorian boys in 1988. The story of Santiago and Nené Restrepo is famous in Ecuador (and in surrounding countries), as the facts and testimonies point to the involvement of Ecuador’s National Police Investigative Services (SIC) under the Febres Cordero presidency. Written by the boys’ sister, María Fernanda, Con mi Corazón en Yambo is an intimate look into the Retrepo family’s fervent hope and undying dedication to investigating the truth.

On January 8, 1988, Santiago (age 17) and Nené (age 14) were supposed to pick up their sister from a birthday party but never showed up. Their parents were out of town vacationing on the coast. It soon became apparent that the boys were missing, and though their bodies have never been found, it is commonly known that they were arrested, tortured, killed and thrown into a lake called Yambo near Ambato. What I got from the movie was that the government thought the family were narco-traffickers because they were from Colombia and had a lot of money.

The movie starts as an introduction to the Restrepo’s privileged life, an undeniably wealthy, seemingly happy family. Real footage of home tapes are woven in throughout, allowing viewers to really connect with the story. It then follows the family’s post-disappearance anguish and its determined effort to search for the brothers and raise awareness about the case through organized protest. In fact, the father still goes to Plaza Grande every Wednesday to this day with banners stamped with his children’s faces and a shirt that reads “Con mi Corazón en Yambo.”

Con mi Corazón en Yambo also takes an investigative angle and includes interviews with former members of the SIC. Shortly after the boys vanished, the case was “closed,” so the Restrepos truly had to take it into their own hands. They have an extensive archive of recorded telephone conversations, newspaper articles, etc., which they have collected to piece together the details. Segments of that gathered evidence is revealed throughout the movie.

Sadly, this is a very visible representation of an era in Ecuador when the government committed severe human rights violations. León Febres Cordero was especially known for ordering these types of injustices. Ecuador’s current president, Rafael Correa, created the Truth Commission to Impede Impunity in 2007, following an unsuccessful former truth commission, to re-open and investigate cases from the Febres Cordero presidency. The Restrepo brothers case has recently been re-opened.

What is also interesting is that local government in Guayaquil (Ecuador’s second largest city) is claiming that María Fernanda (the writer/director) is Colombian, not Ecuadorian  (which is absolutely not true, because she was born and raised in Ecuador) and, therefore, does not consider her documentary to be a national film. All imported items are heavily taxed in Ecuador, including foreign movies, so she will be subject to these taxes for showing her film there. There has been uproar through the country in response to this, as there are clear political motives since Febres Cordero was from Guayaquil and had a lot of support in that city. Apparently, it will be resolved soon, but this just shows what type of political BS goes on here. Con mi Corazón en Yambo seeks to reveal the truth about this horrendous occurrence and by making it more difficult for the documentary to be shown in Guayaquil is straight-up censorship.

Here is the documentary’s trailer (in Spanish); take a moment to watch it if I have interested you in the story at all:

This is the movie’s website:



  1. I saw the movie yesterday. Very interesting and very touching. I think this documental has an international potential.

    • I agree, I thought the movie was very well-done. I would like to see it go international; I think the whole world deserves to know about and hold the Ecuadorian government accountable for the injustices of its past. In the meantime, Con Mi Corazón En Yambo serves as a very heartfelt and powerful account of one of those injustices, and I am happy to know that the Restrepo case has been re-opened.

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