A day in the life

Emily wakes me up at 9:30, I struggle to find what to wear but once I do I barely have enough time to run downstairs and get breakfast. Today we are riding taxis to Club Atletico, a former secret detention center in Buenos Aires. I missed our bus but it was fun to see the streets of Buenos Aires closer to the ground. When Emily, Natalia, and I arrived to Club Atletico, Sara, Ellie, and Ana were already there looking around. I was a little confused. I was expecting a gym, a tennis court, or maybe even a pool but I was met with what seemed like nothing. When Fernando and Dr. Kuperminc arrived they explained to us that what we were looking at was an attempt to erase history. The Club Atletico was torn down but was currently being excavated. Then we went to a museum to read more about what happened. Club Atletico was different than all the other detention centers we had visited before. It was definitely underfunded but it still taught me a lot. 

After the detention center, we took taxis back to the hotel. Hours later we had the privilege of going to Plaza de Mayo to march with the mothers of the disappeared. Two mothers showed up. It was an emotional experience, seeing them still marching over 40 years later. I saw my mother in them, knowing that she would also march until her legs wouldn’t let her. One of the mothers spoke so eloquently and passionately, I was inspired. I was surprised the mothers were so heavily involved, especially at their age. 

Shortly after we marched with the mothers we visited my favorite cathedral so far. I saw many familiar saints that my grandmother loves to prop up in our home, and even did a prayer for the virgin mary at her alter. As we were on our way out we saw the soldiers who were guarding San Martin close his section. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a spectacle, but it was amazing. 

We ended our day at a tango show and it was amazing! This was one of the times I felt like I was truly immersed in Argentine culture. My favorite part was watching the gaucho section, where they did a dance similar to the zapateado, which I do at family parties in the United States. Overall today was one of my favorite days of the trip!

Day in the Life: Buenos Aires

All of my posts so far have been centered around our visits to detention centers and the reading material, so I have saved my last post as a Day in the Life. On the 28th, we were able to visit Tigre, a city on the water which is navigable by boat. We started out getting lunch, and then visiting the craft fair where local artists and craftsmen sold their goods. I was able to buy a lot of souvenirs here, and I was glad to be able to purchase things here and support local artists rather than get more souvenirs in chain stores in the city. We then took a boat ride down the river, and were able to hear about how the people in this town live directly on the water. One of the coolest parts of this ride to me was actually seeing the local people casually canoeing across the river the same way that I would get into my car and drive down the street to the store. It was interesting to see all the boats delivering food and water to the residents, and the scenery was beautiful. We then visited a vintage fair as well as an area of the city famous for its artistic graffiti.

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ESMA and “Between Demolition, Modification and Preservation”

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The most well known detention center we visited was ESMA, a former naval educational facility where people were detained during the war. Every memory site we visited had a slightly different take-away, and for me the ESMA exemplified how systematic the torturing and murder was that occurred during this time period. When we were told that people were held in the attic, it’s hard to imagine a place bigger than your attic at home. Even from the outside, the size of the attic is unassuming. Once you get in and see the space that people were held in, you start to get an image of how many people were kept here. This site had the most informational posters than any of the other ones, which I found to be helpful in guiding visitors through such a large empty space. Imagining how many people were kept there at once made one realize how much organization, structure, and man-power was necessary to maintain this facility. 

In the reading “Between Demolition, Modification and Preservation”, author Emilse Hidalgo discusses the complexities surrounding the preservation of memorial sites such as ESMA. This portion of the reading specifically stood out to me:

“… As the concept of public, shared space is losing its significance in the collective imagery, and huge international businesses use the city’s historic buildings as a location for even bigger shopping malls and fancy restaurants, the preservation of memory sites, which are loaded with conflict history, may be said to generate alternative or oppositional spaces within the nation, as well as to counteract the lack of national ties and emptiness of affect that globalization produces in the spaces it temporarily occupies and exploited. If anything, places dedicated to memories create a problematic layering of the resignedified ‘old’ with the aseptic new of globalized styles.”

In this section, Hidalgo discusses how memory sites will function in the next decades, where the survivors of these sites are no longer alive. How will ESMA acting as a site for ‘memory’ change when no one is there to remember it first-hand, and how will the collective memory of the people change with it? As I mentioned in my last post, with the continuing excavation of sites like Club Atletico, the deceparacidos will not fade from public consciousness anytime soon. However, Hidalgo brings up a good point, in that other historical sites, which should theoretically hold collective memory in a different way, have fallen victim to capitalism and globalization. Even historical places like Che Guevarra’s house and the Eva museum act as tourist destinations with gift shops. While the history of these sites are not necessarily comparable to concentration camps, I think Hidalgo raises a good point of concern for the future of these sites: when there is no longer anyone left who remembers the history of these sites first-hand, how will the treatment of these sites change? I think it is something important to keep in mind as time goes on, and something for people who care about the preservation of these sites to keep an eye on. 

 

Club Atlético

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One of the most fascinating places we visited during this trip was Club Atlético. As we learned, this site used to be a building with a torture center in the basement. It was bulldozed over in an attempt to hide what had happened there, but because people were kept in the basement, much of the area of the building that we are interested in is able to be excavated. This oversight by the dictatorship led to Club Atlético containing a lot of physical evidence that other sites do not have because evidence was wiped away before they left. Since Club Atlético was buried, they did not bother taking many artifacts that have since been uncovered and helped to grow archaeologists’ understanding of what occurred there. 

We visited a separate room away from the excavation site that held artifacts which had been found during the process already. This was the first site we had visited that I had seen physical evidence of Nazi sympathizing from the police who worked there. Nunca Mas discusses the anti-semetic sentiment shared by many of the officers who participated in torturing prisoners, and describes how much worse the torture was for Jewish prisoners than Christians. While I am sure there has been other physical evidence of pro-Nazi materials recovered from old sites, the fact that it is not talked about as much at the other memory sites leads me to believe that finding physical evidence of this is rare. All of the evidence of Nazi behavior mentioned in Nunca Mas was from testimonials of prisoners who survived the camps, so to have uncovered evidence such as the headband with the swastika on it further corroberates how dedicated these officers were to Nazi ideology. Club Atlético was different than the other detention centers we visited because it does not act as a memorial site. There are photos of the desaparecidos as a memorial to those who died there, however at least as of right now the site serves as a research area. There was much more information about the dictatorship and the prisoners at this site than at others, and the information centered more around providing context for the artifacts that were found rather than the desaparecidos.

Club Atlético is an excellent example of how the war continues to affect Argentinians. Excavation sites such as Club Atlético will take years to fully excavate while analyzing everything that is found there. As someone who is studying to be an archaeologist, being able to visit an actual excavation site was incredibly exciting, and I know how much detailed work goes into a project such as this one. This takes a dedicated team or researchers, which shows how important it is to the Argentinian community to continue to find answers to what happened during this period in their history.

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Club Atlético

  The Club Atlético was a really surprising detention center that we visited. I knew nothing about it, and when I was in the cab with Fernando heading there, we got there and he told me that what looked like a construction site of just dirt was the detention center, which surprised me. The biggest surprise I noticed about it was that it was under the highway. 

From Dossier Secreto, “Club Atlético was also run in the federal capital, near the presidential palace. It’s official name was the Central Antisubversiva, but its initials C.A. gave rise to the name by which it was commonly known” (Anderson 211).

In comparison to D2 and La Perla, this detention center was so shocking to see because it was still somewhat public for people to see, but it was still being dug out so professionals can learn more about this site. Due to the construction of the highway above it, it affected its preservation so people are still learning new information about it to this day. So what I thought was a construction site was actually them trying to dig out C.A.

I really appreciated when we went to the building that had more information about this detention center. I felt like we had more time to read about it and it had more translated stories so I was more patient to read them. It was really sad to see that someone carved “Ayúdame Señor” on the wall, it’s just so horrifying to imagine.

 

I think that the U.S. can learn from this particular way of rediscovering this site by no longer hiding history and places that bad things have happened that we might not be aware of. People who have been and continue to be negatively affected by the U.S.’s dark history can continue to heal from past trauma and working towards further improving our human rights if schools taught more about indigenous and POC American history.

Evita

 Seeing the museum dedicated to Eva Perón was such a great experience. She’s someone I knew a little bit about before this trip, but it was really interesting to learn more about who she really was and her impact in Argentinian culture, society, and politics.

In Perón and the People, Eva and her husband were described “They (Juan and Eva Perón) were born as a reaction to your bad governments… They were summoned as defense by a people who you and yours submerged in a long path of misery. They were born of you, by you and for you” (James 273).

It’s amazing how influential Eva, a woman with the background that she had, was to the Argentine people during her time and how the politics were during this time. Even after she passed away, people continue to celebrate her and cherish her, even visiting her tombstone (I’m not sure that’s the right word to properly describe her burial site) to give her flowers and leave her notes saying that she is still loved to this day.

I compare her to Trump, mostly because she was a celebrity before getting involved with politics like him, but she is so clearly different from Trump and her beliefs and her care for people was what made her so special and what made a lot of people love her. People admired her beauty, talents, and passion for the Argentinian people so much so that she’s on the 100 peso bill, she has a building in Buenos Aires with her silhouette on two sides of the building, a library, her museum, and probably more that I’m not aware of. She is a symbol of fighting for the people and I think that is why she is remembered. 

   

Thank You for the Best Time of My Life!!!

 

I just want to say Thank You to everyone. I want to thank Dr. Kuperminc, Fernando, everyone I met in Argentina, and all of the amazing girls I went on this trip with. For this being my first time traveling outside the United States, I have to say this was a life-changing experience for me, and I am so glad that I could experience this with all of you. I really enjoyed trying the different foods and seeing the amazing and beautiful city and country life. I even learned a new language, kind of lol. I am going to miss all of the fun adventures that we had, from horseback riding to hiking up Mount Everest, lol, and to all of our little outings. I had such an amazing time, and I am looking forward to going back home to show all the pictures and souvenirs that I bought and spreading all of the knowledge I learned about human rights while on this trip. But I do have to say that I will miss each and every one of you guys and the family dinners that we had every night. I hope that we can all get together again this summer. Thank you again, guys! <3

How Do I Define Human Rights

You may ask what the definition of human rights is. To me, human rights are rights that are justifiable to everyone. Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, nationality, religion, etc. To me, human rights is having freedom from slavery, torture, and killing, the right to work and education, freedom from expression, the right to life and liberty, and so much more. Human Rights are the right to be able to walk free of any judgment. Human Rights are the right to having food, water, and shelter. Human rights are having the right to be protected from economic, social, cultural, political, and civil injustice. Human rights is the right to be yourself. Human rights are having equality, respect, freedom, and life from the day you are born to the day you die.

ESMA

On Friday, May 27, 2022, I visited ESMA, a detention center for The Higher School of Mechanics of the Navy, located in downtown Buenos Aires. This is one of the most known brutal detention centers that held over 5,000 women prisoners that were tortured in a small attic of one of the dormitories of the naval officers who had worked on the military base during the Dirty War. Coming to this museum and reading Francisco Goldman’s “Children of the Dirty War, I felt more connected to this memorial than any other. I am an African American woman, most importantly a WOMAN, and to read and hear about how women were mistreated and abused breaks my heart. Goldman spoke on how “30% of the disappeared were women, 3% of those women were pregnant or became pregnant from being raped by the guards and torturers”. I started to imagine myself in their position, which really broke me. Not trying to compare the two but learning about this brought back memories of when I learned about slavery. The women were raped and beaten by their masters. They were not treated as human beings. The women were blindfolded the entire time; they were not fed properly or given the right medical treatment to keep them or their baby healthy. Goldman stated how “the babies were taken from the mothers, and the mothers were “transferred” – sent to their deaths by being injected with drugs and shoved out of planes into the River Plate or the Atlantic.” How can someone be this inhumane? Just seeing all of the different rooms and standing in the same spots where these women were tortured does not make any sense. One room that I went into felt like a small five-by-five room with one window that the mothers gave birth in had writing on the ground that said, “How was it possible that boys were born in this place”? To this day, I am still asking myself that exact same question. I feel as if this was beyond torture. They ripped these poor innocent babies away from their mothers and families, and to this day, we still do not know what happened to them. I had read one entry in the museum where they talked about this room and how someone asked one of the torturers the question of how can boys be born in a place where torture took place. He stated, “The boys are innocent, it’s not their fault that they have terrorist parents, and that’s why we give these boys to families that are going to give them an education outside the world of terrorism” (Lilac Pastoriza). That is heartbreaking to read. To this day, we don’t know if that is true or not; we don’t know if they were killed or sold away. I have read so many stories in the museum and from the Nunca Mas reading by Ronald Dworkin and Children of the Dirty War reading by Francisco Goldman, explaining and describing how the grandmothers lived on edged trying to find these missing babies. The Children of the Dirty War stated how one grandmother was a maid in the home of a couple she believed might be raising a stolen child. Just reading that made me think of these Madres as strong women. They have been through so much, and to this day, they are still fighting to find their loved ones and get justice. My heart goes out to all of them and their loved ones, and I pray that their fight continues on.

Marching with the Madres of Plaza de Mayo

On Thursday, May 26, 2022, I had the opportunity to march with the Madres of Plaza de Mayo. The Madres of Plaza de Mayo have been marching since 1977, trying to fight to identify and find justice for the 30,000 individuals that had disappeared because of the dictatorship. In the book, Children of Cain by Tina Rosenberg, she explains how “the mothers have been marching every Thursday, at three-thirty outside the presidential building shouting out all of the names of those that have disappeared.” Demanding justice for their children and grandchildren who were killed and for those whose bodies have never been discovered. She explained how it’s not just mothers that march but grandmothers, husbands, wives, fathers, brothers, sisters, and all relatives who come and show their support for this organization. I found that to be so amazing, but it’s so sad that so many mothers and family members do not have any information regarding to their lost one’s whereabouts and may never get the information they want. I have to say every part of this trip has taken an emotional toll on me but actually seeing two of the last mothers being wheelchaired out to march with us today touched my heart.

I was told so many stories by professor Kuperminc and Fernando about how so many mothers would march for justice, but I believe that reality hit home for me because only two mothers were left. They were no longer young mothers trying to gather information but older mothers in their maybe late 70s or 80s still fighting for justice. This just showed me that they never gave up and like Rosenburg said, “the mothers will march forever.” But it does make me question what will happen when they are no longer here? Will other family members continue to fight and keep this tradition alive? Will strangers start to march and continue this tradition? Will students begin to march after learning about this in school? I have hope that it will continue, and I pray that their justice will come. I do not express my emotions, but so many thoughts, questions, and feelings cross my mind. I started to imagine my grandmother in that wheelchair outside, marching for justice for her children or grandchildren if they had disappeared. What if my mother was marching, trying to find answers and get justice for me if I had disappeared? Questions began to rush through my head: How did these mothers fight for so long? Having the opportunity to be able to walk with the Madres was really impactful and really opened my eyes. This just makes me want to do more in my community and fight to get justice for everything we are struggling and dealing with.

After the march, one of the mothers spoke on how they do this every Thursday and how they are dealing and trying to get justice for other issues like fair wages, women’s rights, etc. They are fighting and continuing to fight each and every day, trying to gain justice for the truth and rights that each individual deserves. This just shows how different it is in the United States and how we need to do better. We deal with injustice every day. The police shooting and killing innocent black women and men, the government is trying to have a say over women’s reproductive system. These mass shootings are taking place, making kids and parents afraid to go to school and so much more. Yes, we have a word, and we speak on it through social media, but I believethat we need to all come together as a community and fight just like the Madres. We need to continue to talk about what’s going on and voice our opinions until the government does something about it. We should not have to back down because we are afraid of the consequences, and we shouldn’t keep quiet. If we continue to be silent, the vicious cycle will continue to go on. But change needs to come, and everyone needs to know that our voice and our rights matter!!