Throughout our visits, the majority of my focus was placed on the victims of the dictatorship– their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. When I did stop to think about members of the military, particularly those who worked hands-on in the detention centers, I often figured that their everyday experience must have been something that was continually foreign and henious to them. To think of their jobs as a routine, or as something they could detach themselves from over time, seemed strange to me.
It wasn’t until I heard survivor accounts of their experiences with the officers that I began to see how the organization and rulings of these detention centers led to the normalization of such horrible violence and oppression. The one that stuck out to me most, that I heard stories of throughout the trip, was the account of a survivor at Atletico who recalled constantly hearing the officers play ping pong. It then struck me that the employees of these detention centers had fully managed to normalize their actions. The structure of these detention centers over time allowed people to separate themselves from a certain level of humanity and to justify the continued violation of human rights.
The dangers of this are discussed in an article by Hidalgo, where it is stated that detention camps of this nature act as a “setting in which the mechanisms of repression and terror are acted out,” and allow “torture and death to become bureaucratized, routinized, and normalized.”
Hidalgo, E. B. (2012). Argentina’s Former Secret Detention Centers: Between Demolition, Modification, and Preservation. Journal of Material Culture, 17(2), 191-206. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
At the Parque de la Memoria, I particularly loved this piece of art. Each memorial we had visited and each person we spoke with had stressed the importance, above all else, of education and thought as a form of rebellion. This piece of art, as an expression of that sentiment, stuck out to me. It’s placement on hill, where the sun could easily shine through it and cast a shadow on the ground in front of it helped to fulfill its purpose and message, and the way the sentence was arranged made it so you had to focus on it to put it together. All of the aspects of it emphasized its purpose.
I thought the piece did a good job in representing Argentina’s current culture and climate surrounding their history. In the face of oppression, free will, thought, and justice are the tools that citizens use to overcome turbulence. The piece tied to a quote from Holzman’s article “A Quiet Revolution”: “In a world where regimes continue to massacre their own people with impunity, Argentina’s quiet revolution adds another weapon to the arsenal of deterrence and represents a major step forward for human rights.”
Holzman, E. D. (2012, August 2). A Quiet Revolution. Huffpost Live. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
When reflecting on the events that occurred leading up to and following the disappearances that were committed by Argentina’s military in the 1970s and 1980s, it is easily seen that the emotional climate created by socioeconomic-political events during the period played a leading role in maintaining a sense of fear nationwide that ultimately led to the creation of a society that was unable to speak out or act against blatant violations of human rights, even as they took place in plain sight. The power of fear took over Argentina causing citizens to feel as if they were incapable of speaking out against what was taking place around them.
Since the fall of Argentina’s dictatorship, there has been a collective movement to reverse the climate of fear that once existed in throughout the nation. Because of once existing fear tactics, people today that have a relationship to the violation of rights that took place know that they must work to not only reverse the climate of fear that once existed, but to create a culture of peace. This begins with making the events that occurred in the 1970s and 80s known to the entire nation and around the world. Those working in the memorials, those who are survivors, and those with family members who have disappeared are continually working to create an open environment in which events, and the emotional connections to those events, are not forgotten and that those who have experienced trauma have a chance to mourn and to be heard.
Through the use of memorials, marches, and art throughout the city, citizens of Argentina are working to ensure that the climate of fear that once existed cannot be recreated. For me, the most powerful form of education that I witnessed were the photographs and names of victims seen at each memorial, particularly at La Perla, where loved ones were able to remember and mourn those that they had lost. The open discussions and educational opportunities we were a part of helped to work towards a culture of peace.
Rivera, J. D. (2007). Emotional Climate, Human Security, and Cultures of Peace. Journal of Social Issues, 63(2), 233-253. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
During our visit to El Rosal we participated in a variety of unique experiences, including learning about the preparation of the dozens of empanadas that were made for our barbeque. As each person from our group learned the process, they were able to impart the knowledge to others in the group until everyone knew what they were doing.
The final project was absolutely delicious and the recipe will be great for us to take home and try to recreate.
Visiting La Perla and coming to face-to-face with the history behind the atrocities that occurred under Argentina’s strict military regime during the 60s and 70s provides an education that cannot be captured in written accounts. The experience of witnessing something that was once used for heinous acts of oppression being utilized as a place of education and healing is something that exposes those who are unfamiliar with Argentina’s history to something that cannot be forgotten.
The opportunity to see the intellectual and cultural influences that helped to further student and union movements in the 1960s and 70s gave the history that we have learned about so far a further sense of humanity. Seeing the fashion, music, film, and literature that was both shaped by counterculture movements and helped to shape counterculture movements gives those who visit the memorial a chance to see the sentiment behind the leftist protests that took place during the time period and to further connect individuals today to those who were disappeared. There is something particularly personal about walking into a room dedicated to individuals and events that existed over 30 years ago and being able to appreciate their ideological expressions.