By Claudia Ahumada and María Valdovinos
Before taking our trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, we were required to read My Name is Victoria by Victoria Donda. It was a very important text that would prepare us for the upcoming assignments throughout the rest of our project. It served as a detailed introduction to the Learning Cluster because it covered many of the essential topics. The book is divided in six sections that are equally important for the full understanding of this dark period in the history of Argentina. It begins with Donda talking about her biological parents, and in this section she also includes the current situation Argentina was facing and its connection with the external world. She moves on to what her childhood was like and her peculiar fascination with the name Victoria. Then, it later transitions to what it was like to discover that she was in fact someone else. She describes the obstacles and psychological problems this process of regaining a new identity brought. She clarified that accepting a new identity now as Victoria Donda did not mean that her old one “Analia” died. It meant that today she is able to live with these two identities and bring them together as one because Victoria was always in Analia.
“My life. The life of Victoria Donda, but also Analia’s. Because they’re one and the same. Both women are me. And to become Victoria was not simply a matter of administrative procedures and a degree of public exposure that I never could have imagined: to recover my identity was also to recover my parents’ past, their families, their blood ties. And, therefore, my own.”
Argentina’s horrible dictatorship ended the lives of many brave individuals who fought against state terrorism. Fortunately, many of these Argentines survived and now give us the opportunity to understand the history of the period through personal testimonies. The survivors ranged from those who were detained and tortured in clandestine centers to the new born babies of abducted mothers. Due to the hard work of “The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo” many of these children, who are now adults, were able to discover their true genetic identity. Victoria Donda is one of those fortunate individuals who accomplished what might seem to be impossible. In her book, My name is Victoria, Donda elaborately describes her struggles in attempting to find her true roots and parents- her true identity.
During the dictatorship, thousands of people were abducted and tortured in clandestine detention centers. In My name is Victoria, Donda mentions that her parents had been taken to ESMA, one of the hundreds of detention centers in Argentina. Her mother gave birth to her in one of the special rooms specifically used for deliveries. Soon after she was born, Victoria was given to a man and woman named Raúl and Graciela. Raúl was involved in the injustices committed by the government. It was his job to raise a daughter, “a true argentine citizen,” who would follow and learn to share his same political views. The man in charge of directing Victoria’s childhood and early adult life was her uncle, Adolfo Miguel Donda Tigel. He was one of the military officials in charge of the torture centers and believed that giving Victoria Donda away to a collaborator of the government was the best action to assure the “right” future for her.
“This is a war. And in a war you can’t show mercy to your enemy. I didn’t show mercy to my own brother, who was a Montonero. And I didn’t show mercy to my sister-in-law, who was brought here to the ESMA just like you. And she was transferred, just as you’ll be if you don’t do what we tell you. I didn’t show them the least preferential treatment and I didn’t feel the slightest guilt, because this is a war, and they were on the other side. That’s how it goes: either we win or you do. So you might as well cough up whatever you know….”
This book brings out the horrid reality of what occurred during that era and specifically captured Victoria’s personal story. Also, in My name is Victoria, the reader is able to witness what it takes to regain one’s identity. Victoria Donda is very detailed about each and every single change and emotion she felt throughout the process. She is the seventy-eighth grandchild identified by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. Today, Victoria Donda is a human-rights activist, legislator, and the youngest woman to become a member of the Argentine National Congress. She exemplifies the possibility of recovering one’s identity and family history. Donda also represents the hope that every Argentine and world citizen should have in searching for justice, truth, and inner peace. Everything is possible.