Che Day

A couple days ago we went to the Che Guevara house/ museum! After a lifetime of idolizing his revolutionary nature, it was absolutely mind-boggling to walk on the same floor that he walked on.  

There were pictures and sculptures of him from numerous different stages of his life. I was in marxist heaven! 

Most famous pictures of Che are from later in life, but it was enlightening to see pictures of him from all across his life span. It turned Che from an icon into a actual human person.

This plaque commemorated the death of Che; he’s a true Marxist martyr! Che is such a respectable person as he died for what he believed in. In this way we all should want to be like Che.  

 

Revolutionaries make the best idols, especially when they follow their ideology into the grave. Thank you for your stand against capitalism, Che. 

-NB

A poem by a La Perla survivor, Maria Victoria Roca

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019, we went to La Perla, a detention center in Colectora, Malagueño, Córdoba and there we witnessed the remnants of a detention center which was seemingly cleansed of the secrecy of the abuse and violence against the people who were kidnapped and disappeared in a regime that did not tolerate their defiance. Upon walking around the memorial I fell upon a poem by a woman who survived the horrors of the center.

The poem translates as such: 

“Because remembering was full of thorns and in the hardness of my skin cracks opened. Because they told me that to begin with I had to forget and oblivion is not my nature. Because the light was only the reflection of a great shadow and my pain was blind, deaf and mute. Because the impulse was sudden and liberating but my brush marked the familiar paths. Because returning was the unthinkable word and only by returning could I think. Because they told me that to begin with I had to remember and remember I could find me. Because the thorns bloomed and my skin softened, blurring the cracks. Because my pain took a distance to see the shadow diminish and the glare grow. Because that flower redeemed the impulse releasing the legacy of those ALWAYS ALIVE souls. ”

Here Victoria shows the duality and paradoxes of remembering her experience at La Perla. She stated that she was told to forget which implies effort and in the same sentence had oblivion as not of her nature. Oblivion is a state of unawareness or unconsciousness– even if there was an intentional action to get to said state, once in the state there is lack of conscious effort. To forget is deliberately trying to delete or blur an event from your memory. This sentence is ironic in that forgetting can result in oblivion because of refusing to face the problem head-on.

Other paradoxes/ contrasts are as follows:

  1. light as a reflection…..great shadow (also coexistent as you can see light in the dark and see the dark beyond the touch of the light)
  2. sudden, liberating impulse….. marking of familiar paths (shows that even in the moments of unpredictability there is still gravitation towards the known)
  3. unthinkable return….. thinking upon return (though the wounds would reopen, they would also heal more organically)
  4. I had to remember….. remember I could find me (she knew herself but also remembered she had to find herself)
  5. remembering was full of thorns….. the thorns bloomed (similar to 3)
  6. the hardness of my skin cracks opened…..my skin softened, blurring the cracks (shows continuity because the cracks are still there but the experience with them changed) 
  7. see the shadow diminish….. see the glare grow (similar to 1)

Victoria beautifully created this poem to portray her constant battle with accepting what happened to her and others as well as picking up the pieces of herself that was left behind in that trauma. She also used the poem as a means to immortalize those who did not make it out and the ones who still had pieces of their own souls left behind in the center.  

A.N.

Independence Day and My Birthday

May 25th is a day of celebration. In Argentina, it is a day of Independence. For me, it’s a celebration of life. Today I celebrated my 21st birthday. Knowing that my birthday would be on this trip, I had bittersweet feelings; bittersweet because I would not be around familiar faces and those that I am close to would not be able to celebrate with me on this day. However, what I didn’t know would happen is that I would create a bond with amazing people who took the time and energy to make me feel very special and very loved today. Best Birthday Yet. Not only was today a celebration for me, but I was also able to celebrate Independence Day here in Cordoba. For the people of Argentina, May 25th is technically considered the beginning of fighting for independence against Spain. Their official day of independence is July 9th. During this day, many places were closed in respect for the holiday. However, you will find some restaurants open for their traditional dish “locro”. Locro is a hearty stew that is mostly eaten on this holiday specifically. It can contain many ingredients however, my dish included beans, corn, onions, and other veggies as well as meat (like lomo or steak or sausage). This dish filled me up with such delight. It is great with an empanada (and I heard locro is also pretty good with cheese in it). All in all, the day was absolutely great, I learned, I loved and I laughed a lot. What else could I ask for?

They Were Taken…Yet They Survived

Going into this study abroad program, I knew that I would gain a lot of insight into human rights in general. However, I did not know the impact it would have on me and those around me. As the date soon approached for this trip, I read into Nunca Mas, a report that discusses the many many tragedies that occurred in the 70s during, and even before, the dictatorship in Argentina. According to this report, “economists often predicted fifty years ago, that it would become one of the world’s most prosperous nations. But it never achieved the political stability economic success required…” The military overthrew the government several times and this time, complete control was in their hands and they stopped at nothing to make sure it remained that way…even if it meant killing thousands.
During the dictatorship, multiple “secret” detention centers were created all over Argentina for the purposes of taking people, torturing them and or killing them. Although most people taken were activists, many others we family or friends. Thus far we have visited two Detention Centers; D2 and La Perla. D2 was a center that was also a police base and placed in the middle of Cordoba, across from a cathedral. Many passed through this place and some eventually went to a political prison. Dr. Fernando Reati was one of them. Hearing his experience made me quite emotional and I was truly amazed that we had the opportunity to ask him questions. La Perla, on the other hand, was different. It is said that this center is a military based strictly built for the purposes of torturing and killing people. Around 2,000 people were killed here. We were fortunate enough to meet two survivors from this place, Fernando’s Cousin, Hector, and woman, Susan. La Perla was massive in comparison to D2. Where D2 tortured people anywhere they could, La Perla had a specific torturing room.
Seeing these two places and meeting these survivors gives one a huge appreciation and it was great seeing their physical reactions about their experiences and telling their stories. Something that amazes me is that when they speak of it and their experiences, they have no hate in their heart, they have no sadness within their soul. They seem to be truly content and happy. Many people that go through something so traumatic, I would imagine, wouldn’t have the same reaction. Yet these three humans showed me that no matter how traumatic something in life can be, you can always turn it into something that benefits others whether it be writing a book or making a film. I think we are truly blessed to have people like them in this world. Although there are many people missing from this tragedy, their memory, and their struggles to fight for what they believe in do not go unnoticed. This is in memory of them.

– ADS

Alfonsina the Restaurant Introduces Me to Alfonsina the Poetess!

The first evening our group of students and professors from Georgia State University shared a delicious dinner of empanadas, picadas (sampler/appetizer platters) and delicious Argentine wine in the historic restaurant Alfonsina. It is named after the superbly talented yet tragic poetess Alfonsina Storni.  It was at this restaurant that I first learned of her.

Despite my considerable familiarity with the literature and poetry of the Spanish language, it was the first time I had heard of Alfonsina. Hearing a brief description of who she was and how she died, my curiosity was spiked to learn more about her!

Alfonsina was one of Argentina’s and the world’s greatest poets of the 20th century.  She was also a pioneer in woman’s poetry, feminist poetry and is considered a founder of the Spanish genres of modernismo and posmodernismo.  She left us with a prolific body of poetry, but tragically left this world at the young age of 46 by committing suicide. On Tuesday, 25 October 1938, Alfonsina left her room and headed towards the sea at La Perla beach in Mar del Plata. Her biographers say she jumped into the sea from a breakwater, popular legend is that she slowly walked out to sea until she drowned. There was even a song composed about her Alfonsina y el Mar (Alfonsina and the Sea). Link to the song   https://youtu.be/cNMhgC1yg_USadly, it is said that she committed suicide because she thought she was very ugly.  I think you will agree with me that she was not ugly!  She was not a 10, nor a supermodel, but I think she was actually a pretty woman. Her story and her poetry have made an impact on me and I am enjoying continued reading of her poetry. There are a few documentaries of her life on YouTube in Spanish, (I haven’t found any in English yet).

 

Principle E

A photo of the amount of space each prisoner in ESMA had.

While reading Rodney L. Lowman’s piece on Psychologists’ Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity, I couldn’t help but think why this code of ethics isn’t a norm in society. Principle E essentially states that psychologist need to respect and see the worth of all people despite their gender identity, ethnicity, race, nationality, socioeconomic status, and ability. Principle E touches on the importance of empathy and compassion when working with people and also with just being a human being. The ability to put yourself in someone else shoes is important when you’re a person interacting with other people. 

Neo-liberalism, one of the driving forces of the State Terror, has no empathy because it based on the exploitation of people and their labor. Compassion and empathy for people should be in everything, however; it cannot be when junta occurs, and the goal is to destroy every person who disagrees with neo-liberalism. The Disappeared experienced immense dehumanization from the moment they were identified as a threat, to the clandestine camps, and how they were treated within those camps.

In the fight against neo-liberalism and remembering victims of neo-liberalism love and empathy is essential. With the resistance art and remembrance of the Disappeared in Argentina, it seems to me that Argentinan activist have already been aware of principle E.  

Lowman, Rodney L.(2005)’Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity’,Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment &
Trauma,11:1,71 — 77. DOI: 10.1300/J146v11n01_06

The Reflection in the Mirror

 La Perla, also know as La Universidad (the University), was a clandestine detention center used during the Argentine military dictatorship of the last century (1976-1983).  While visiting, I naïvely queried as to what the facilities were used for both before and after its use as a detention center. I was disturbed to learn that the military had built the facility with the sole, specific purpose of detaining, interrogating (with the use of torture), people whom they considered to be dangerous and enemies of the state. It actually began functioning before the rise of the military dictatorship, in 1975 and continued in operation until 1979. It is located on the highway that unites the large city of Córdoba, Argentina’s second largest city, with the smaller city of Carlos Paz.  Through its gates passed over 3,000 detainees, with only approximately 250 survivors.  (After the dictatorship, it was used as a regular military training base.)

The vast majority of the victims were common workers, unionists and university students. The detainees were abducted from their homes, from the street and other locations. They were blindfolded, thrown into the trunk or rear floorboard of a car and driven to La Perla. Some were transferred from other detention centers. When brought to La Perla, their likelihood of coming out alive was very slim.  When initially brought in, they were processed and interrogated, interrogations that involved torture.  The average detainee was kept from a few days to two to three weeks.  The vast majority were forced to sit and/or sleep in a small cramped space as pictured in the photo below:

 The gentleman pictured is a son of one of the tortures, who denounced his own father for his crimes. His father forced him, as a teenager, to watch some of the horrible things that went on in La Perla. He says, that in his adolescent naïvete, he thought that they were doing good, that he was some type of secret agent. As he grew and matured, he realized his father had manipulated him.  In the picture, he sits in the position that the prisoners were forced to remain day and night, except when they were being questioned/tortured or for the rare bathroom break.

The most shocking and disturbing thing of our visit to La Perla, was actually after the trip. Before our debriefing and discussion about the visit, I was thinking about what I would discuss. I looked through my photos and discovered this one: 

I had not noticed before that my reflection was captured in the photo, that in the photo it appeared as if I were in the room that was used for torture!  This shock reminded me of how vulnerable we all are to an “all-powerful” state, be it right-wing or left-wing. When a state, a government, feels that it has such power that it can kidnap citizens, whether guilty or innocent and question them, torture them, kill them and/or disappear them without due process of law, we are ALL in danger! Today you may be favored by an “all-powerful” government, tomorrow things could change! 

 

Rio de la Plata

 

One of the many detention centers and memory sites where the victims were abducted, tortured, and disappeared during the state terrorism that I was given the opportunity to visit was Parque de la Memoria. It featured a memorial wall of victims that suffered from the dictatorship beginning in 1969 and artifacts and sculptures in reminiscence of the victims. This memorial site specifically invoked many unexplainable emotions due to the stories and articles read about it.

While traveling to Parque de la Memoria, Fernando purchased flowers and gave each of us one to throw into Rio de la Plata in remembrance of the disheartening torture and death the victims faced. With Fernando, painting the mental picture of the victims being drugged and thrown out into Rio de la Plata out of airplanes, “death flights”, with receiving the immediate impact from the water made throwing the flower even more heart wrenching and difficult to fathom.

 

According to Janet A. Kamien, “In 1998, the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires passed legislation to create this riverside park at a place where a number of discarded bodies of “disappeared” persons had washed up during the Dirty War.” (Kaimen, 2012) The military forces strategically used this method of execution to destroy any remaining evidence that could imprison them for the persecution of those innocent lives. Rio de la Plata was a site used by the military forces to erase the identity and lives of those they violated.

Reconstrucción del retrato de Pablo Míguez

Also, at the site was a sculpture of Pablo Míguez, one of the many children that were kidnapped with their families during the dictatorship. The sculpture is a portrayal of the concept of appearance and disappearance. In my perspective, that concept signifies that his body was not able to dissolve deep into the body of water due to his young age and weight, therefore was floating just above Rio de la Plata (appearance), however with the excruciating impact of the water caused an instant yet fatal death which symbolizes the concept of his remaining disappearance. Furthermore, depending on the weather conditions for the day one may or may not be able to see the identity of the victim.

All of these encompassing details made the site incredibly hard to fathom and even harder to walk.

Kamien, J. A. (2012). Sites of Memory: Argentina. Curator: The Museum Journal, 55(3), 267-277. doi:10.1111/j.2151-6952.2012.00151.x

 

Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo: 41 Años Más Tarde

Like Edgardo David Holzman quoted in A Quiet Revolution, “The mothers and grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo are now an international symbol of resistance to oppression.” Their reach spans far past Argentina, and has stirred up similar movements in countries overseas. We had the opportunity to march alongside these women during the weekly Thursday march of Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo. They have marched every week for over 40 years, in the same square, opposite to the Presidential Palace (la Casa Rosada).  

Two different branches of Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo marched simultaneously during the demonstration. Political differences led to the creation of two separate sects – one group, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Association, became more involved in various political aims while the other group, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Founding Line, remained active politically, but only had the true goal of searching for truth and justice for their kids. 

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Association

Las Madres wore white kerchiefs around the head, leading the group of demonstrators. Several hundred of the famous white kerchiefs are drawn around Córdoba and Buenos Aires, emphasizing how large their movement has become. Most of them appeared to be rather frail, but their resiliency still remains just as strong over the decades.

The strength of these women amazes me. Although it would have been easy to give up hope after the pardons and amnesty given some to the perpetrators that should have been held accountable, these women keep organizing, keep fighting, and keep the spirit of their lost children alive.

Ni Una Menos

While packing for this trip, I packed a shirt that says “The future is female.” Originally, I was hesitant to pack it because I was unsure about the nature of feminism in the country and I didn’t want to draw negative attention. 

Come to find out, I think a shirt of that nature would be more than welcomed here. I was unprepared for the amount of graffiti littering nearly every wall and building downtown, but it’s actually oddly refreshing to see viewpoints that break a conservative model displayed so openly. 

With Argentina seeing two female presidents (Isabel Martínez de Perón and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner), I would have naively assumed that they were miles ahead of the United States when it comes to women’s rights. However, Argentina has one of the worst records of femicide. Most often, justice is not served and convictions for femicides are far and few between. Additionally, reproductive rights are at a minimal. Abortion is illegal in nearly all cases, and access to contraceptives is limited in certain areas. 

The #NiUnaMenos campaign is similar to the #MeToo movement in the United States, and it is calling attention to the prevalence of femicide and rape in the country. The graffiti that I’ve seen is only a tiny, tiny fraction of the work that is being done to advance women’s rights.