By Miho Saito
The chapter, “You Are Here- H.I.J.O.S and the DNA of Performance” from Diana Taylor’s The Archive and the Repertoire details how performance transmits traumatic memory caused by the military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s. H.I.J.O.S- the children of the disappeared, are a collective group in Argentina who, through escraches, acts of public shaming, “target criminals associated with the Dirty War” (164). These highly “theatrical and well- organized” practices involve arranged protests of almost five hundred people, leading participants to culprits’ homes, offices, or torture centers. Along with giant puppets, military pigs on wheels, enormous photo IDs of the disappeared, street signs, and yellow paintings of repressor’s names and crimes on sidewalks, they use an alternative map of Argentina that indicates onlooker’s location in relation to a concentration camp, “Usted Está Aquí- You are here,” as a means of helping people understand the history and pain of the traumatic violence and loss, and as a vehicle for cultural change (165).
Three generations surrounding the disappeared, las Abuelas, the grandmothers; las madres, the mothers; and H.I.J.O.S, children of the disappeared, have developed protest movements that use performance strategies which link each other in numerous ways: genetically, politically, and performatively (169). Just as these generational lines are linked with the continuation of the same DNA, they use performance methods such as photography to continue their transmission of truth and evidence of the disappeared lives. These photographs, in their state of “absolute sameness,” actually bring individuality to the victims and help reappear the existence of those who have been erased from history itself (176). Not only do photographs perform to unearth the truth of the trauma and painful loss to the public, but they are the only things that prove the existence of their parents to the children of the disappeared.
This reading relates to our Learning Cluster’s theme of children’s rights to identity. The right to identity means not only knowing one’s own history, but the history and truth of one’s country as well. The author accounts how the children of the disappeared are forever known as “the children of the disappeared;” it is part of their identity. However, knowing who their parents are, even if it is only through photographs, gives them a sense of identification: “H.I.J.O.S., like the Madres and Abuelas, do not highlight individual or personal loss and trauma, trauma defines them, not just as individuals haunted by personal loss and pain, but as a group shaped in response to atrocity” (183). They represent themselves as mementos of the history their parents endured, and acknowledge the violent history which prompts them to “fight for justice and human rights” (183). As part their identity, it is their shared responsibility to participate in political transformation and to make sure the rights they have are upheld. Diana Taylor ends with a final thought: “You are Here’ marks not only the performance space but also the collective environment of trauma that addresses and affects everyone. We are (all) here” (189). Through the experience of those affected by the disappeared, we can all realize that identity and performance is a way for the voices of the people disappeared to be heard, which is our way of knowing the true history.