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Memories of Buenos Aires

Memories of Buenos Aires: Signs of State Terrorism in Argentina

Edited with an Introduction by Max Page
Epilogue by Ilan Stavans
Translated by Karen Robert
with assistance from Jonathan Soria
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vk5cq
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  • Book Info
    Memories of Buenos Aires
    Book Description:

    In the 1970s, Argentina was the leader in the “Dirty War,” a violent campaign by authoritarian South American regimes to repress leftwing groups and any others who were deemed subversive. Over the course of a decade, Argentina’s military rulers tortured and murdered upwards of 30,000 citizens. Even today, after thirty years of democratic rule, the horror of that time continues to roil Argentine society. Argentina has also been in the vanguard in determining how to preserve sites of torture, how to remember the “disappeared,” and how to reflect on the causes of the Dirty War. Across the capital city of Buenos Aires are hundreds of grassroots memorials to the victims, documenting the scope of the state’s reign of terror. Although many books have been written about this era in Argentina’s history, the original Spanishlanguage edition of Memories of Buenos Aires was the first to identify and interpret all of these sites. It was published by the human rights organization Memoria Abierta, which used interviews with survivors to help unearth that painful history. This translation brings this important work to an Englishspeaking audience, offering a comprehensive guidebook to clandestine sites of horror as well as innovative sites of memory. The book divides the 48 districts of the city into 9 sectors, and then proceeds neighborhoodbyneighborhood to offer descriptions of 202 known “sites of state terrorism” and 38 additional places where people were illegally detained, tortured, and killed by the government.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-267-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Introduction to the English-Language Edition The Arc of Memory and the Arc of Justice
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    MAX PAGE

    The former torture centers of Buenos Aires display a rarefied elegance. Old military schools, rusticated neoclassical police stations, Gothic churches, French-inspired mansions, Spanish colonialestancias:state terrorism in the 1970s took place in the aged splendor of what is often called the ʺParis of South America.ʺ At the edge of the Spanish Empire, Buenos Aires was slow to win the role of capital of the new nation (it celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2010) and slow even to consolidate its own boundaries. So too was the system of repression in the 1970s dispersed, based in neighborhoods across the city and...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxii)

    This book offers the reader a set of entry points through which to explore the city of Buenos Aires in a reflective manner, whether as a full-time resident or as a visitor. We are forced to live in a present moment drained of history as we move through our daily trips to work and school, our weekend itineraries, and the routes set by shopping malls and cultural centers, and that same forgetful impulse is rapidly stripping places of their historical and social reality. This book proposes a different kind of urban itinerary. It seeks to reveal the suppressed history buried...

  5. How to Use This Book
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  6. SECTOR 1 MONTSERRAT, PUERTO MADERO, RETIRO, AND SAN NICHOLÁS
    (pp. 1-58)

    The Plaza de Mayo is the public space par excellence in which Argentinaʹs collective memories, conflicts, and disputes all converge. In the midst of the military dictatorship, the mothers of the disappeared defied the dictates of state terrorism and took over this site, restoring it to its function as a spatial metaphor for politics and freedom of expression. Their presence in the square marked the beginning of its recovery as a central space within Argentine democracy and political history.

    The families of the disappeared chose to voice their demands from the Plaza de Mayo because of its history and symbolic...

  7. SECTOR 2 PALERMO AND RECOLETA
    (pp. 59-86)

    Over a thousand people crowded into the patio of the school during an unveiling ceremony that revealed a plaque bearing the names of the thirty-four students and two teachers detained and disappeared during the last dictatorship.

    This event took place On September 17, 1998, in the Carlos Pellegrini Advanced School of Commerce (Escuela Superior de Comercio Carlos Pellegrini), one of the public high schools that operates under the direction of the University of Buenos Aires (see ʺBuenos Aires National School,ʺ p. 43). An earlier memorial with seven names had been dedicated in 1986. Sometime later a committee of school alumni...

  8. SECTOR 3 ALMAGRO, BALVANERA, BOEDO, AND SAN CRISTÓBAL
    (pp. 87-126)

    The Gothic-style Santa Cruz Church is located at 3150 Estados Unidos Street on a property granted to the Passionist Community in 1881. The church, inaugurated in 1894, was a meeting place for members of the Irish community and other residents from the neighborhood of San Cristóbal throughout the twentieth century. On March 12, 1977, it brought together another kind of community in the early years of state terrorism, when family members of the disappeared gathered here and initiated the most effective form of resistance to the dictatorship. The founding group of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo met here and...

  9. SECTOR 4 CONSTITUCIÓN, BARRACAS, LA BOCA, PARQUE PATRICIOS, NUEVA POMPEYA, AND SAN TELMO
    (pp. 127-150)

    The Clandestine Detention Center known as the Club Atlético operated between February and December 1977 in the specially prepared basement of a three-story building on Avenida Paseo Colón, between San Juan and Cochabamba Streets. The building was evacuated within a few months and demolished to make way for the 25 de Mayo Freeway, one of two highway projects built by the last dictatorship. Visitors can view an ongoing archaeological excavation at the site that has partially uncovered the clandestine center from beneath a mountain of earth and rubble.

    ʺFrom now on, you have no names.ʺ Carmen Aguiar de Lapacó heard...

  10. SECTOR 5 BELGRANO, COGHLAN, COLEGIALES, NÚÑEZ, AND SAAVEDRA
    (pp. 151-174)

    The ESMA (Argentine Navy School of Mechanics), one of Argentinaʹs largest Clandestine Detention Centers (CDCs), is located on Avenida del Libertador near the riverfront on the north side of Buenos Aires,. Originally designed for the technical training and accommodation of naval petty officers, it maintained its normal operations during the dictatorship alongside its function as a Clandestine Detention Center. It is estimated that some five thousand people were detained here; most remain disappeared to this day.

    Several features combined to make the ESMA a symbol of illegal repression and state terrorism. It was one of the first Clandestine Detention Centers...

  11. SECTOR 6 AGRONOMÍA, CHACARITA, PARQUE CHAS, PATERNAL, VILLA CRESPO, VILLA PUEYRREDÓN, VILLA ORTÚZAR, AND VILLA URQUIZA
    (pp. 175-196)

    San Patricio Church contains a monument honoring the Pallottine Martyrs, five members of the Pallottine Society who were murdered by the dictatorship on July 4, 1976. The sculpture, completed in September 2005, is titledEl Camino de los Palotinos(The Pallottinesʹ Way). Buenos Aires City Council hung a plaque in the Church honoring these men in 2006, on the thirtieth anniversary of their deaths. A nearby passage running between Estomba and Plaza Streets was also named Mártires Palotinos (Pallottine martyrs).

    A Special Task Group* entered the Parochial House of San Patricio Church around one a.m. on Sunday, July 4, 1976,...

  12. SECTOR 7 MONTE CASTRO, VILLA DEL PARQUE, VILLA DEVOTO, VILLA GENERAL MITRE, VILLA REAL, AND VILLA SANTA RITA
    (pp. 197-212)

    The number of political prisoners in the Devoto Prison doubled after the military coup of 1976, and abuse inside the prison increased. By the middle of that year roughly three hundred prisoners were being held there for political reasons. By the end of the dictatorshipʹs first year the number of political prisoners throughout the country had risen to over five thousand.

    From 1975 on, political prisoners in Devoto were jailed under a system of maximum security that included tight restrictions on visiting hours, use of the yard, and access to published materials. Women imprisoned for political reasons were classified according...

  13. SECTOR 8 CABALLITO, FLORES, FLORESTA, PARQUE CHACABUCO, AND VÉLEZ SARSFIELD
    (pp. 213-232)

    ʺWelcome to the Olympus of the gods,ʺ announced the mural that greeted prisoners when they arrived at the torture chamber, which was known as the ʺoperating roomʺ (quirófano). The Clandestine Detention Center known as El Olimpo functioned in a building at the corner of Ramón Falcón and Lacarra Streets from August 1978 through February 1979. Roughly five hundred people were detained there after being kidnapped as part of the military juntaʹs plan of repression.

    The site known as El Olimpo was originally a tramway station; its trams carried passengers and cargo from the nearby meat-processing plants and slaughterhouses. The building...

  14. SECTOR 9 LINIERS, MATADEROS, PARQUE AVELLANEDA, VERSALLES, VILLA LUGANO, VILLA LURO, VILLA RIACHUELO, AND VILLA SOLDATI
    (pp. 233-248)

    ʺWhere should we put the flowers?ʺ asked Vera Jarach at the inauguration of the Paseo de los Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Walk). ʺWeʹve thrown them into the river so many times. This place is going to bring together many generations for a long time to come,ʺ she said in front of the grove of trees dedicated to disappeared students from the Buenos Aires National School, a group that included her own daughter Franca Jarach.

    The ʺFundación Memoria Histórica y Social Argentinaʺ (Argentine Foundation for Historical and Social Memory) was founded on November 18, 1987, by family members of victims disappeared...

  15. Epilogue: Via Dolorosa
    (pp. 249-254)
    ILAN STAVANS

    Iʹm ambivalent about memorials, such as the one in New York City dedicated to the victims of September 11, 2001. I recognize the psychological role they play. And Iʹm aware of the societal duty to remember a cathartic event of the past. The question for me is how to use that past. That it is usable I have no doubt. But what kinds of uses should one draw from it?

    My duality has to do with what looks to me like a misguided effort of trivialization. Memorials, no matter how sober they are in recounting the atrocious events they pay...

  16. Police stations as sites of illegal detention
    (pp. 255-260)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 261-268)
  18. Abbreviations
    (pp. 269-270)
  19. Works Cited
    (pp. 271-274)
  20. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 275-275)
  21. [Map]
    (pp. 276-280)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-282)