OK – I know I haven´t posted in awhile, and for that I apologize. Samson, I´m sorry. The thing is, there just really isn´t that much to write about – well, probably nothing that you´d find especially interesting or amusing. As boring as it sounds, I´m basically just living a (relatively) normal life in the city…which I guess is bad for you all, who so enjoy getting your jollies from my shenanigans and randomly awkward encounters, but probably good for me, as I´m really integrating into the city. That being said, as my monetary supply is uncomfortably inching toward extinction, I´m toying around with a few ideas – short of English teaching, unless I really become desperate – to ensure I, in the words of the immortal Snoop Doggy Dogg, ¨get that paper.¨ At this point I´m not at the liberty of disclosing my plans, as I´m not fully aware of the stringency of Argentine copyright law, but if anything actually comes to fruition I´ll be sure to let you know how it goes. One thing´s for sure: I won´t be selling any knives (try this one too)!
As there´s nothing too special to write about my current state of affairs, I figured – being the consumate friend, brother, teacher, lover, or whatever I am to you – I´d go ahead and enlighten you a bit about this crazy place in which I´ve been living for the past 5 months of my life, a little place called Argentina. And so, barring anything noteworthy happening, my next few entries will be about Argentine history, culture, civil unrest, etc., and will be included in a series I´d like to call ¨Droppin´ Some Knowledge.¨ Let us proceed….
My first post is about the Madres de La Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group that has been protesting the Argentine government for 25 years, obviously, at the Plaza de Mayo. Plaza de Mayo is the main plaza, in the center of downtown, that is just outside of the Casa Rosada – where the President lives. Basically, the Plaza de Mayo is the epicenter of all political activism, protests, and occasionally, rioting. Plaza de Mayo :: Casa Rosada as The National Mall :: The White House.
The reason I´m discussing the Madres de La Plaza de Mayo is because I went to their last demonstration two weeks ago, after 20 something years. This last demonstration marked #1500. Since 1977 they´ve been protesting and petitioning the government, every Thursday afternoon. Why? We´ll get to that. First, we´re going to have a really brief Argentine history lesson so that you can see the big picture. Don´t worry, we´re talking about South America here, so it´s guaranteed to be interesting.
For all intents and purposes, this is going to be the Adam Rosen Abridged History of Argentina, so if any Argentines or scholars are reading this, I mean no disrespect. Vamonos…
Between 1976 and 1983 Argentina was under a military dictatorship. It´d take too long to describe how it all happened here, but basically, by 1976, Argentina was in a serious state of disarray. Fighting between leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries had been getting progressively worse, resulting, obviously, in a wrecked economy and a whole lot of senseless deaths on both ends of the political spectrum. Under the pretense of ¨restoring order,¨ the military coerced the helpless President, Isabel Perón – the 3rd wife of former President Juan Perón, the former husband of ¨Evita,¨ as in the movie with Madonna – into resigning, and, being of course well-concerned for the welfare of the state, appointed itself – who else – as head of the state. The head of the military at this time was a man named Jorge Rafael Videla, who was a real poo-poo head. One of his more diplomatic quotes includes:
Videla and his crowd dubbed their new policy the ¨National Reorganization Proces¨ – hardly a surprise, given that we all know how those dictators love their euphemisms…some examples include:
- ¨Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service¨- One of Hitler´s ¨Nuremburg Laws¨ banning Jews from the government
- The Great Leap Forward¨ – Mao Tse Tung´s socialist re-organization plan
- ¨The People´s Democratic Republic of Korea¨ – Kim Il Sung´s sunny idealistic name for his regime…as my poliscit eacher told me Junior Year – any country that has to try to convince you that they´re democratic really isn´t
Anyway, you get the point. Dictatorships like charades…it´s as much a part of their existence as the oversized-button down winter coat and erect one-arm salute. So now that the commander-and-chief of the military is the President of the country, the full, unobstructed resources of the military are now on hand to ¨restore order¨ within the state. The reign of terror at the hands of the government – known now as the ¨Guerra Sucia¨ (Dirty War) – continued until 1982, when the dictatorship ended. Throughout the ¨Guerra Sucia¨ it´s estimated that between 10,000 and 30,000 died, mostly leftist sympathizers, journalists, doctors, human rights activists, intellectuals, liberals, and the occasional leftist rebel. The thing is, they didn´t just die, they ¨dissapeared.¨ That is, the military was notorious for kidnapping and torturing people, and then basically erasing their existence from the record books as if they never existed. Concentration camps, torture chambers…you name it. A by-product of the military´s activities was the creation of the name ¨desaparecido¨ to refer to those who had dissapeared in the middle of the night, never to be heard from, or about, again. They were also notorious for kidnapping pregnant women, taking their babies, and giving the babies to childless military couples (after killing the natural mother, of course). Not nice. At all.
It´s also interesting (if you can call it that) to note that Jews made up a highly unproportional number of victims during this ordeal:
¨During the ´dirty war´ of 1976-1983, the military was accused of targeting Jews, though they represented only one percent of the total population, one in nine kidnapping or torture victims were Jewish.¨
Although, my guidebook ¨the Rough Guide to Argentina,¨ claims this was more due to their involvement as journalists, professors, and general liberal-leanings than to blatant anti-Semitism.
Anyway – back to the original topic. The Madres de La Plaza de Mayo was founded in 1977 by a group of mothers whose children had been killed and/or dissapeared by the dictatorship. Basically, they gathered on the Plaza de Mayo, protesting and demanding to know what happened to their children. Keep in mind 1977 was still 6 years before the dictatorship would fall – so the potential for incurring the dictatorship´s wrath was very real and possible. These women were incredibly brave, and the really despicable part is that more than a just a few of them wound up with a similar fate as their children. And yet, the Madres kept on…and on…and on and on…until a few weeks ago.
I have to say, I felt a bit ashamed snapping away just feet from the Madres, just so I could have my nice little picture of one of every Buenos Aires tourist guide´s ¨must see sights,¨ while they marched around protesting one of the worst human rights abuses of the last quarter of the 20th century. It was a pretty depressing spectacle, the hordes of tourists absolutely mobbing the Madres - in fact at one point they almost obstructed the Madres´path as they marched around, carrying pictures of their murdered children, brothers and sisters. Perhaps I´m being a bit negative and the wide tourist exposure will, perhaps, help the cause, but the skeptic in me is pretty turned off by the whole site. I couldn´t bring myself to take more than a few pictures from afar, but unfortunately the gangs of overeager speakers of languages other than Spanish seemed to feel the protestors deserved all the dignity of animals in a zoo. I think the underlying message was lost, somewhat, filtering through all of the North-Face…And that, kids, is my dissertation for the day.
click on photos for larger size
Tags: Droppin´ Some Knowledge