By Melissa Acevedo
Today our group visited the Eva Peron Museum (photo 1), one of Argentina´s many attempts to use museums as a teaching device (Carey, 2012). One interesting fact that I learned was that Eva Peron´s corpse was confiscated from her grave in Argentina in 1955, transported secretly to Italy, and recovered and sent back to Argentina 16 years later after Juan Peron returned from exile in Spain. According to one article, ¨no other corpse has meant so much to a nation than Eva Peron´s to Argentina.¨(Sims, 1995, The New York Times). Eva Peron´s corpse was confiscated because the military, which later transitioned into the military junta that lead the Dirty War, feared that Eva Peron´s body would be used to rally the working class populace. Hence, the military went through numerous attempts to hid her body. However, wherever the military hid the body, there were difficulties keeping the corpse from admirers, who place flowers and candles nearby her grave. This was when Eva Peron’ s corpse was clandestinely transported and buried in Italy.
Argentina has had a long history of using the dead for political purposes (Sims, 1995, The New York Times). For example, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Spanish settlers often smeared the blood of their victims on their own wounds and paraded around the bodies of the conquered across town. Eva Peron was an advocate of woman´s suffrage, access to health care, minimum wages, and in general improving the lives of the poor and the working class. Her value system was contradictory to that of the elite military of the time, and I believe her mission was a major impetus for the events leading up to the Dirty War. The military elite felt threatened by Eva Peron, even after her death, because she was able to identity with the plight of the poor and working class of the time, and as such, was able to obtain great respect and admiration from the lower classes Eva Peron was able to provide the inspiration to the lower classes to rally for their needs. Eva Peron was such an influential advocate for the poor and working class had such an influential advocate for their rights, even after her death, that the military feared a take-over by the left wing lower class, which eventually lead to the commencement of the Dirty War (James, 2002). The military junta used the Dirty War as a means to gain the control back that they lost under the influence of Eva Peron, resorting to any means to put the working and lower classes ¨back in their place.¨
Additionally, Eva Peron was exhumed from her grave, in a very Catholic society. Catholic beliefs suggest that a body should not be disturbed once it is buried, and should be left to rest in peace (Foer, 1998, https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=www.slate.com%2farticles%2fnews_and_politics&data=01%7c01%7cgkuperminc%40gsu.edu%7cbfa0a3cde68c4ce9bd9008d38455b254%7c515ad73d8d5e4169895c9789dc742a70%7c0&sdata=m01kK9guwyCXoomrx6gJ6UVMiARBMr5nDgDZeM857HU%3d). Yet, ironically the supposedly strongly Catholic military violated Catholic doctrine to obtain forceful control of the working populace, which decades later flourished into additional violations of Catholic doctrine with the human rights violation that occurred during the Dirty War.
Today we also visited the burial site of Eva Peron (photo 2) located at La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. The very same homage for Eva Peron by Argentines that the military junta worked so hard to destroy over several decades, continues to persist in current day Argentine society. Many people from all over the world wait patiently to take photographs of Eva Peron´s tomb. Flowers and other gifts of homage are readily visible at the tomb site. Apparently, the military´s attempts at undermining Eva Peron´s influence in Argentina was quite unsuccessful.
By Melissa Acevedo
While visiting the Evita Fine Arts Museum in Cordoba, I came across a piece of artwork, Antipodas, (photos 1 and 2) that was of particular interest to me. Originally, as the description of the artwork notes, the artwork was hung in a vertical position. The Museum decided to reorient the artwork in the horizontal position. The museum´s decision to convert the orientation of the artwork was the result of discussions with curators, artists, and art historians.
What struck me as interesting with revised horizontal positioning of the artworkwas that it reminded me of the living conditions of the political prisoners at La Perla. For most of the day, these prisoners were made to lie on the cold, tile floor of the detention center (photo 3), one of the many torture tactics used by the military junta to ¨break down¨ military prisoners (Soledad Catoggio, 2010).
The decision of the museum to hang Antipodaa in the horizontal position, was a nice effort towards remembrance of the suffering that took place against military prisoners during the Dirty War. The issue of remembrance has been of great importance in Argentina (Foster, 2009). There have been major efforts to mark public space and create lasting memorials. While the most notable public spaces are El Parque de la Memoria, el Club Atletico, y ESMA, smaller reminders, such as those of the repositioned artwork of Antipodas, serve as a reminder and testament to the suffering of political prisoners during the Dirty War.
I just read an article about Bernie Sanders’ proposal to eliminate university tuition. It’ll never get a vote in Congress, but Argentina did this nearly 100 years ago. Certainly not a perfect system, but worth thinking about… Here is a link to the article and a link to a Wikipedia about Argentina’s university reform.
This door is part of an exhibit on display at “La Perla,” the infamous torture and exterminatinon center, where more 2,000 people were detained and fewer than 300 survived. The rest remain “disappeared” to this day. The Memory Center that runs the space now commissioned 37 artists from all over the country to work with doors from the actual center that were used during the dictatorship, with the theme of entrances and exits.
The words read, “The mental structures that impede memory can be seen as a point of departure for the destruction of being.”
Article in “Alta,” the Aerolineas in-flight magazine announcing an agreement between the airline and human rights groups to publish updates of the human rights trials in Argentina. The airline will also help collect phone numbers and addresses for the National Genetic Data bank to help identify children of the disappeared who were appropriated/taken from their families during the dictatorship.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN ARGENTINA: FROM DICTATORSHIP TO DEMOCRACY (1976-TODAY)
Georgia State University Study Abroad Program
Georgia State University’s Summer Program in Human Rights in Argentina is an exciting 2 ½ week examination of Argentina’s transition from dictatorship to democracy after undergoing the most traumatic period in its history: The military dictatorship in which 30,000 people were abducted, tortured, and killed in secret detention places. The program is conducted in ENGLISH and no knowledge of Spanish is required to participate. Students will spend the first 10 days in the city of Cordoba (the second largest city in Argentina), which in the 1970s was one of the major sites where thousands disappeared and gross violations of human rights took place. During that time, students will attend morning lectures taught by professors from the National University of Cordoba from departments such as History, Political Science, and Psychology, as well as by human rights activists and other persons familiar with the topic. Afternoon visits and field trips relevant to the program will include a visit to the Cabildo (the old City Hall building), which housed the D2 Police Intelligence Unit and La Perla former concentration camp. Some afternoons, as well as one full weekend will be spent visiting tourist sites in the area, Such as the city of Alta Gracia with Che Guevara’s house and museum, and the colonial Jesuit Estancias. The last week of the program will be spent in Buenos Aires (the capital and largest city in Argentina), where students will visit offices of human rights organizations, such as the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, former secret detention centers the ESMA and El Atletico, and the Parque de la Memoria memorial wall and sculpture garden. This interdisciplinary program is suited for students in the literature/culture concentration of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, and students pursuing a certificate degree in Latin American Studies through the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies. The program is also suited for students in departments such as Anthropology, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, or Women’s Studies who have an interest in international approaches within their disciplines.
The program is sponsored by the Department of Psychology, the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, and the Center for Human Rights and Democracy Studies.