On Thursday, May 30th, we were honored with the opportunity to walk with the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. The mothers of plaza de mayo were/is a group of Argentine women whom have children that were killed or “disappeared” during the Dirty War by the military dictatorship. They would march in front of the Casa Rosada every Thursday to protest the terrorism and malevolent acts set forth by the miltary regime. Though there aren’t many of the mothers alive today, being that they first started with their age being around 40, the remaining mothers still come together and march to commemorate the lost of their loved ones.
Being there for the march was a great experience. Even though the weather was not the best, people from different parts of Buenos Aires still showed up to commemorate what happened in Argentina from 1976-1983. As we walked around the statue, there was someone there to read out the names of the people who were killed or disappeared. It was very moving because as each name was read, everybody yelled “PRESENTE!” This means that though they may not be here physically, they’ll always be remembered and be there in the hearts of everyone. The mothers today still fight for human, social, political, and civil in Argentina and elsewhere. According to “Children of the Dirty War” by Francisco Goldman, Nestor Kitchener, whom was a former president of Argentina, made one of his first acts as president to make the, then elderly, mothers and grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo iconic figures in his government. He made sure to sit them close to him at public functions and he said, “We are all the children of the Madres and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo!”
On May 31st, we visited ESMA, a detention center/concentration camp located in downtown Buenos Aires. ESMA is the most known detention center during the Dirty War. It is located on the main road in the heart of the city, between the World Cup Stadium and the main airport. With that being said, it’s crazy how many killings and tortured were done here in front of everything! It is known that around 5000 people were tortured here.
There was a lot of information and interesting things that I learned about at ESMA but one that really stood out to me was this room here. This is the room where the mothers gave birth to their babies. The words at the bottom translate to “How is it possible that children were born here?” I just could not imagine what these women had to be going through. This is more than just torture. This is a part of dehumanizing, which was the goal from the soldiers. In “A Single Motherless Death,” “I couldn’t pronounce myself. I was skin between speeches.” This refers to the dehumanizing of the prisoners and how they were affected by the torture. We also learned that pregnant women weren’t fed properly nor received the proper medical attention they needed to keep the baby healthy. Being at ESMA puts you in the perspective of the prisoners and you get a glimpse of what they went through. It was all very interesting.
May 25th is the day Argentina celebrates its Independence Day from the Spanish rule, which dates back to 1810. This day is formally known as El Dia de La Revolucion de Mayo. Argentina celebrates its independence from Spain by having concerts, public rallies, meetings, and eating this traditional stew, pictured above, called Locro. Locro is originally a stew from the Andes Mountains but is now a popular dish to be eaten on May 25th all across the country. The stew has many ingredients including pork, chorizo, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, tomatoes, onions, paprika, oregano, and parsley. The dish was delicious and I’m glad I was able to participate in the Argentinian culture on this special day to see how families and friends come together and remember the history of this country.
On May 23, our group visited the detention center, La Perla, where around 2000 people died. Most people who were brought to this detention center ended up losing their lives. Soldiers would torture people here by electric shocks, water boarding and beatings. Soldiers also made them do inhumane things like barking, crawling, dragging them from building to building, putting them in handcuffs and blindfolding them, and much more. This picture above shows just a few of the many faces of the people who were killed or “disappeared.” Family members of the people who died or “disappeared” would bring in pictures of their loved ones and write notes. When first starting out, it would mostly be a passport photo that they would bring in, but over time, people started bringing pictures of their loved ones when they were happy or with their family.
The prisoners weren’t allowed to conversate or entertain themselves in any way, but they secretly created a chess game out of bread without the guards seeing to keep them occupied.
The guards would steal all the jewelry from the prisoners, but one lady was beaten and abused so bad that her hand swelled up so much to the point where her ring was unable to take off. She ended up being a survivor and decided to donate her ring to this memorial site.
Students were able to use their art and display how they felt about these times and/or what it means to them on a door.
Out of the 2000 people that were killed here, only 4 bodies were found. the remaining bodies were suspected to have been buried somewhere in all this land or around the mountains until the government dug it up and somehow got rid of it.
During our time in Córdoba, we visited a memorial site called D2. One part of the exhibit that really stood out to me was this here hallway. When first looking at this picture, you would think that it is just a regular hallway anyone would just walk through at any time. This isn’t the case at all. This hallway is where hundreds of people were tortured and abused.
This hallway is where dozens of people, just like anyone, would be held at a time where they would just suffer. There was a long bench on either side of the hallway where around 25 people would squeeze together for days, and in some cases, even months, at a time! The police abused the people here by hitting them, not feeding them appropriately, not letting them bathe appropriately, and just making them constantly stay in the tiny corridor. Fernando, our guide and survivor during this time, explained to us his experience in D2. He would tell us about what it is like to be constantly blindfolded and abused, walking over dead bodies, and the constant torture that was put on him by the police. I simply just could not imagine what it was like to go through what these people went through.