Latin American Studies Conference: California State University, San Bernardino (March 8-9, 2012)

The Latin American Studies Conference, “Study of the Americas,” in intended to foster interest, knowledge and understanding of the very diverse cultures of Latin America. Areas of interest will include the impact of Latin American cultures in the United States. We welcome papers and panel proposals on any subject relating to the “Study of the Americas”

State Terrorism and the Rights of Children in Argentina: 
A Student Centered Participant Research Abroad

As part of a Learning Cluster, this January, a group of eleven undergraduate students from Soka University of America, CA, traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in order to research state terrorism during the last dictatorship and the economic crisis of 2001. Learning Clusters are among the most unique and popular academic programs at Soka University. A Learning Cluster (LC) is a research seminar where students work in teams with faculty facilitators to investigate a specific question. It is designed to bridge theory and practice, and elicit an educated outcome or response. The course is designed to help students apply a range of investigative and analytical tools in the discovery and presentation of trends and ideas, including policy recommendations that bear upon the quality of the human condition.

The purpose of this LC was to provide students with an intensive working knowledge of the changes in the conception and protection of the rights of children in Argentina through the last civic and military dictatorship and the economic crisis of 2001. It aimed at understanding how these two events compel Argentineans to reconsider the importance incorporating the UN convention on the rights of children into the national legislation. The hands-on experience of interviewing human rights activists, government representatives, was an educative experience for students both intellectually and emotionally.

The students explored these problematic through many different documentary materials; they analyzed films, read essays and testimonials, conducted interviews with one of the Judges of the trials to the last military Junta, and the Argentine Forensic Team and visited a detention and extermination center. Some of the questions we explored were: What occurred during the genocide in Argentina and the subsequent economic crisis? How are Argentine youths currently involved in the efforts to preserve the memory of the political, cultural and social genocide? How has the youth mobilized to face current socio-political issues in the country? And most importantly, how can we learn from their experiences?

The students who presented as a panel in the conference were: Claudia Ahumada, Laura Cossette, Miho Saito, Katie Kamimoto, Kimberley Ng, Maria Valdovinos, (Professor Crowder-Taraborrelli, served as coordinator). This was the second time that a group of students from Soka University spoke at this conference. Last year another learning cluster shared their research on sustainable development and immigration in the Tijuana/San Diego border.

La goleada del Plan Condor

Un exsenador peruano denuncia que la victoria de Argentina frente a Perú por 6 a 0 en el Mundial del 78 fue pactada entre los dictadores de ambos países.

Siempre ha habido sospechas de que el partido en el que Argentina goleó 6 a 0 a Perú en el Mundial que organizó en 1978 había estado amañado. Pero ahora esa suposición ha quedado plasmada en una denuncia judicial de un exsenador peruano secuestrado por la dictadura de su país y enviado a Argentina como parte del Plan Cóndor, la cooperación entre regímenes militares de Sudamérica para exterminar a opositores. El exsenador peruano Genaro Ledesma Izquieta declaró que el entonces dictador argentino, Jorge Videla, había aceptado recibirlo a él y a otros 12 conciudadanos como “prisioneros de guerra” con la condición de que la selección en la que brillaba Cubillas se dejara golear por la de Mario Kempes para permitir el acceso de la albiceleste a la final. [leer más]

“El concepto de derechos humanos se fue modificando con el tiempo”

Su escape de la Mansión Seré en 1978 fue relatado en la película Crónica de una fuga. Claudio Tamburrini aporta propuestas polémicas, como reducir penas a los represores que brinden información. Trabaja en el sistema judicial sueco y desde ese lugar desmitifica algunos tópicos sobre las sociedades escandinavas: dice que existe sobre ellas una percepción ralentizada. [leer más]

Student Biographies

Laura Cossette

My name is Laura Cossette and I am from San Francisco, CA. I am a first year student at Soka University of America, most likely concentrating in International Studies. I am very interested in Latin American studies, Spanish, photography and reading. In my free time I like to hang out with friends, go to the movies, and play board games. In the future I hope to become fluent in Spanish then start a career as either a Spanish teacher or interpreter.

Jacob Edelstein

My name is Jacob Edelstein and I am ninteen years old from Palos Verdes, California. Currently I am studying as a freshman at Soka University of America. I had the oppurtunity to work with malnourished children in Panama during 2009 and from this experience I gained a deep interest in elemenentary education and Spanish translation. I am thrilled to have the oppurtunity to travel to Argentina and examine both an international system of education and the larger question of children’s rights within a society. After Soka I hope to work in translation and use Spanish internationally in my work.

Norito Hagino

My name is Norito Hagino and I am currently a Junior at Soka University of America. I was born into a Japanese family in San Francisco, California and have lived in California all through out my life. In January 2011 I was given the oppurtunity to participate in the Tijuana, Mexico Learning Cluster with Prof. Tomas Crowder-Taraborrelli and now, I am once again fortunate to take a LC abroad, this time in Buenos Aires, Argentina. On a side note, I have just finished studying abroad for a semester in Quito, Ecuador.

Katie KamimotoHello my name is Katie Kamimoto, I am a sophomore at Soka University Class of 2014 from Long Beach, Ca! I am very excited to be part of this Argentina Learning cluster and to experience the Argentinean culture, learn about the rich history, and to hear the experiences of many who lived through the Dirty War. It will be a wonderful experience being able to do field research in a country like Argentina and hope to bring back great memories and experiences.

Kimberley Ng

Hi! My name is Kimberley Ng. I’m from Malaysia, currently a Junior at Soka University of America. Having grown up in Malaysia, I know nothing about Latin American culture. Having never learnt about it in school, I thought this Learning Culture would be a terrific opportunity to immerse myself in a new horizon of culture. Plus, it will also allow me to learn about the problems of education and allow me to further understand the problems of education and learn how to exercise the children rights of Argentina. With the experience I gain from this Learning Cluster, I can bring it back to my country and perhaps, help better the education system as well.

Nandini Puri Hi! My name is Nandini Puri and I am from India. I have done my high school in Malaysia and I am currently a sophomore in Soka University of America and plan to graduate with International Studies as my concentration. I am so excited to be a part of this Learning Cluster because I am extremely interested in learning all I can about the Dirty Wars, children’s rights, and Argentinean culture. I hope to take back amazing memories and beautiful experiences, which I can treasure forever. 

Miho Saito

My name is Miho Saito. I am currently a sophomore studying at Soka University of America with a concentration in Humanities. I am interetsed in Human Rights and culture. I wanted to take the Children’s Rights Learning Cluster in Argentina because I was interested in learning about the impact of poverty on education and the quality of education children are receiving.

Monse Sepulveda

Hi, my name is Monse Sepulveda, I’m from Chile and currently, I’m a third year student at Soka University of America, in California, USA. Even though I grew up in Chile, I was very disappointed with myself when I realized one day that I knew very little about Latin America. I think that most of the time, we assume that we know everything about our birth place just because we’ve lived there our whole lives. But some of my friends who come from other parts of the world knew so much more than I did. I’m now trying to learn as much as I can about Latin America. This Learning Cluster is part of that effort.

Claudia Ahumada

Hello my name is Claudia Ahumada, currently a freshman at Soka University of America and I am concentrating on Social and Behavioral Sciences. Originally from Oceanside, CA; I am Mexican-American, fluent in Spanish, English, and presently learning French. I am truly grateful for being able to participate in this Learning Cluster because I am learning more about Latin America as I have already studied past culture and history in my Latin American Studies class here at SUA. I look forward to learning in depth about the Dirty War, hearing personal experiences, and meeting new people in Argentina. When I am not studying I enjoy dancing hip hop!

Maria Valdovinos

My name is Maria Valdovinos. I am a 20 year-old junior at Soka University of America. I am a Mexican-American fluent in Spanish and English. I was born in Los Angeles but raised in Naucalpan de Juarez, Mexico. My home is now in Compton, California. After college, I would like to work as an advocate in children’s education, specifically analyzing and improving the effectiveness of certain educational programs. By being a part of this LC, I have the opportunity to expand my knowledge of international education systems by observing the primary schools of Argentina.

Malahat Zhobin

Hi my name is Malahat Zhobin, friends call me Mal. I am so excited to be studying children’s right in Argentina. I am very fond of learning about new cultures and life styles. I am very greatful to be getting a change to work with people and hear their stories. This is going to be a step closer to my dream for working as a writer and photographer for National Geographic. 


Photo by Norito Hagino

Learning Clusters:

A Learning Cluster is a research seminar where students work in teams with faculty facilitators to investigate a specific question. It is designed to bridge theory and practice, and elicit an educated outcome or response. The course is designed to help students learn to apply a range of investigative and analytical tools in the discovery and presentation of trends and ideas, including policy recommendations that bear upon the quality of the human condition. Learning Clusters occur in 3.5-week block periods to take full advantage of opportunities for field and service learning.

The Learning Cluster Area student learning outcomes are:

* To develop critical, analytical, and investigative skills to formulate educated responses to a specific problem or question
* To develop personal and leadership skills to work collaboratively toward the completion of a common project
* To develop skills and awareness as concerned and engaged global citizens

Children make up a considerably neglected topic in the protection of human rights. Children occupy an ambiguous juridical space, since they are deemed too immature to be able to defend themselves and raise demands. Their rights are often associated with the rights of their biological parents, as children do not participate in politics and cannot vote. They are often neglected by governmental institutions. Most agree that children have very little control over their lives and cannot advocate for the type of world that they would like to live in.

The following are some of the initial questions we would like to explore before finalizing the course curriculum for this LC: What are some of most basic rights of children? What rights do children have that protect them from exploitation, abuse, trafficking, and appropriation? Are children capable of exercising choices and if so, should children have the right to participate in political reforms? What institutions should represent children, if any?

We have chosen to conduct on-site research because Argentina’s recent past shows unprecedented abuses to the rights that are traditionally afforded to children and embraced by almost every culture in the world. The last military dictatorship in Argentina enacted a genocide that left thousand dead and disappeared. Citizens, political activists and intellectuals were kidnapped and imprisoned in clandestine detention centers. They were often times torture and killed. Pregnant women gave birth in captivity and their babies were appropriated by military personnel or sympathizers of the regime. As a result of such abuses, grassroots human rights organization like the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo sought the assistance of forensic anthropologists and DNA researchers in the United States to create a genetic bank that could help them find their biological grandchildren. Since the late 1980s more than 100 of these missing children have been identified, prompting politicians and members of the legal system to rethink constitutional rights in order to ensure that, even during military conflicts, there are certain rights that will continue to be upheld. This painful history has informed the legal debates about the rights of children in Argentina for the last 30 years.

Photo by Norito Hagino

During the first stage of this Learning Cluster we will review the controversies around children’s rights since the end of the Second War World, a time when millions of children were left homeless and orphaned. After that, we will switch our focus to Latin America and examine the legal and social implications of the American Convention of Human Rights, (commonly known as Pacto de San José de Costa Rica) and the ratification by most countries of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child. It is important to mention that while the Argentine government gave constitutional jurisdiction to these laws which grant political protection to minors (Decree 23.054), the United States is one of the remaining countries that has yet to ratify the convention.

As part of our work in Buenos Aires, we plan to interview human rights activists that work in organizations dedicated to the protecting the rights of children. We will also consider the ramifications of the ratification of the Pacto de San José and the Human Rights Convention. We will visit local schools and ask teachers how they include human rights themes in their curriculum. Last year, the Argentine ministry of education introduced a series of books and DVDs to teach young children about the appropriation of children and their right to find out their true identity.

We will also interview victims of state repression who were born in detention centers, taken away from their parents, and given to military families to be raised under the ideology of the dictatorship. These individuals are around 30 years of age and two of them have been elected to the Congress. We also plan to interview filmmakers, lawyers, judges and governmental officials who work to unearth the past and face contemporary problems such as child trafficking. We will visit the genetic bank in Buenos Aires and meet with members of the world reknown Argentine forensic team. Students will collaborate with the professor in writing a Grant application to subsidize the costs of travelling to Argentina.

Some of the general topics we would like to investigate in Argentina include:

• adoption rights
• the right to identity
• child welfare systems (plan de asistencia familiar)
• the right for children to have access to a free primary, secondary and tertiary education
• the right to free health care for children
• the right for children to enjoy an environment free of pollutants
• the obligation of government to educate children about their rights and their protection under human right conventions
• the duties of adults to protect the interests of children

Suggested links for further reading:

American Human Rights Convention (Pacto de San José de Costa Rica)

Educational material about the appropriation of minors

Banco Nacional de Datos Genéticos

Ley 26.548: Creation of the National Genetic Bank

My name is Victoria

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.

Los Estudiantes del Nicolas Avellaneda

Claudia Ahumada and Maria Valdovinos

We had the pleasure to meet with students from Nicolás Avellaneda High School: Calu Callegari, Franco Scalisi, Fatu Rodriguez, and Leopoldo Bebchuk. Nicolas Avellaneda’s history dates back to Argentina’s dictatorial period when fifteen alumni disappeared. They were arrested and later taken to clandestine detention centers. The abducted alumni of Nicolas Avellaneda were politically active as they fought for justice against the dictatorship. Today, things have changed and these four students are an example of that transition. These young adults and other students are presently active in after school workshops. In these workshops, students have the opportunity to direct their interest in technology and media towards making educational documentaries that reflects on parts of Argentina’s history. The head organizer of these workshops is Leticia Guindi, a history professor at Nicolas Avellaneda.

The students described the way in which they became interested and involved with the workshops on Memory. Leopoldo explained, “We came in, Leticia told us about ‘memory’ and I didn’t understand what it meant, but saw posters at the school and became very interested.” They later realized the workshop was not only about filming, but also learning about the importance of memory. One of the many required tasks was interviewing people who lived through the atrocious years of the dictatorship. For instance, they interviewed mothers whose sons or daughters disappeared due to their political views. Calu thought, “Oh, I get to interview people. Yeah!” but then she quickly learned that asking personal questions like, “How did you feel when you found out your son/daughter was disappeared?” was not as easy or fun as she had imagined. 

Calu and Franco
Photo by Norito Hagino
These students came across many obstacles while interviewing, filming, and editing. They shared one of the many anecdotes from this project. On their first interview they were over-prepared; they had a few tapes and two batteries which could last for a few hours, however, the interview only lasted thirty minutes. Also, making sure the camera was properly placed at the right angle was unexpectedly tedious. Regardless, these students overcame all obstacles and have now produced two remarkable documentaries. One of them is about the disappeared people and the other on the shift in politics from a dictatorship to a democratic government.

On top of creating a documentary, these students organized and helped with the making of three “Baldosas” (green tiles) in honor of the disappeared students who attended Nicolas Avellaneda. The baldosas included the students’ name and the date they disappeared. They were placed in front of the school for all pedestrians to see. Throughout the challenging interviews and research they discovered more and more families who had lost a son or daughter, but remained silent during the dictatorship due to fear of having another relative kidnapped or tortured. Today, their names remain right in front of Nicolas Avellaneda and serve as an inspiration for the youth to fight for their rights.

Text in Spanish 

Tuvimos el placer de encontrarnos con estudiantes del colegio Nicolás Avellaneda: Calu, Franco Scalisi, Fatu Rodriguez y Leopoldo Bebchuk. La historia del Nicolás Avellaneda comienza con el periodo de la dictadura en Argentina cuando muchos egresados desaparecieron. Fueron detenidos y llevados a centros de detención clandestinos. Los egresados secuestrados estaban muy involucrados en la política. Hoy en día, las cosas han cambiado, y estos cuatro estudiantes son un ejemplo de esa transición gubernamental. Ellos junto con otros estudiantes actualmente participan en talleres, donde tienen la oportunidad de usar su interés en la tecnología para crear documentales educacionales que cuenten la historia de Argentina. La organizadora de estos talleres es la profesora de historia del Nicolás Avellaneda, Leticia Guindi. 

Soka University students together with students of Nicolás Avellaneda High School
Photo by Norito Hagino
Los estudiantes describieron la manera en la que se interesaron e involucraron en estos talleres sobre Memoria. Leopoldo explico que “cuando ingresamos, Leticia nos habló sobre Memoria y nosotros no entendimos que significaba, pero vimos posters en el colegio y nos interesamos mucho.” Luego se dieron cuenta que los talleres no eran solo sobre films, sino también sobre la importancia de la Memoria. Uno de los requerimientos era entrevistar a personas que vivieron los atroces actos de la dictadura. Por ejemplo, entrevistaron a madres cuyos hijos e hijas desaparecieron debido a sus creencias políticas. Calu comentó, “…oh, tengo que entrevistar a estas personas. Si!” pero después rápidamente se dio cuenta que preguntarle a unas persona algo tan personal como “que sintió cuando supo que su hijo/a había desaparecido” no era fácil o entretenido como ella se había imaginado.

Estos estudiantes enfrentaron muchos retos en este proceso. Compartieron una de muchas anécdotas de este maravilloso proyecto. En la primera entrevista ellos estaban demasiado preparados; pero la entrevista solo duro media hora. También, asegurarse que la cámara estuviera ubicada en el ángulo correcto fue muy tedioso. A pesar de todo, ellos superaron estos los obstáculos y ahora son los productores de dos documentares extraordinarios. Uno de ellos es sobre las personas desaparecidas y el otro sobre el cambio político desde la dictadura al actual gobierno.

Además de crear el documental, los estudiantes organizaron y ayudaron en la creación de tres ‘baldosas’ en honor a los estudiantes desaparecidos del Avellaneda. Las baldosas incluyen los nombres de los estudiantes y la fecha que desaparecieron. A través de las entrevistas y la investigación, se dieron cuenta de más y más familias que habían perdido a sus hijos/as, pero que no habían hablado durante la dictadura por miedo a represalias. Hoy, esos nombres están frente del colegio Nicolás Avellaneda y sirven como una inspiración para los jóvenes que luchan por sus derechos.

In this short clip Calu Callegari shares her personal experience making the short documentary film, telling us that how hard it was for her to ask such difficult questions.

“Cautiva,” Gastón Biraben

By Laura Cossette

The film Cautiva tells the story of an adolescent girl who learns that she is the daughter of desaparecidos. The film begins with her life before she discovers her true background, showing that she is very happy with, what she believes to be, her family. An interesting bit of foreshadowing is the disturbance that occurs in one of Cristina’s classes towards the beginning of the film. During a history lesson, a fellow classmate has an outburst in which she tells of what really happened during the Dirty War; she speaks of all the people who disappeared. She does this because she is, in fact, the daughter of desaparecidos. The story progresses and we see that Cristina does have a rebellious side, she is seen smoking cigarettes in the bathroom, but overall she gets along perfectly with her family and seems to have a desirable life. However, her world is flipped upside down when she is told by a judge that she is the daughter of a man and a woman who are desaparecidos. She is subsequently taken from the home where she was living, and she lives with her biological grandmother.

At first, Cristina refuses to accept the circumstances she is put in and still wants to live with her appropriators. She is clearly angry and confused and does not want to lead the life of Sofia Lombardi, which she is told is her birth name. However, with the help of her friend Angelica, her former classmate, who is also the daughter of a desaperecido, she gradually begins piecing her life together. Although the transition is rough, Cristina slowly begins to adjust to her new life. She meets many members of her biological family, and eventually forms a very strong bond with her grandmother. She reaches a point where she accepts the life of Sofia Lombardi and rejects the life she used to live as Cristina.

The most striking thing about Cautiva to many of the members of our Learning Cluster was its irrefutable resemblance to the life of Victoria Donda. After having read Donda’s book, My Name is Victoria, we all saw many things in common between the two stories, however, there is no reference to Donda’s book or her, so as of now it is simply a theory we have. Overall, it was a very powerful movie that offered a much more tangible insight into the life and experiences of an appropriated child. The visual representations of Cristina/Sofia’s emotional struggles made the experience more real and relatable. Cautiva is a very valuable film in understanding the history of Argentina and the battle that appropriated children face once they learn about their true roots and have to face Argentina’s bloody history firsthand.

La Historia Política del Nunca Mas – Emilio Crenzel

by María Valdovinos

Nunca Mas (Never Again) is a report about disappearances in Argentina written by Ernesto Sabato and a committee of notables and published by CONADEP (Sep 20, 1984). Its goal was to clarify the events that happened in the country during the military dictatorship from March 23, 1976 to December 10, 1983. The mission of Nunca Mas was to collect all sources that can possibly serve as proof of the incredible atrocities committed during the dictatorship. The sources collected vary from documents to demands from families or friends given to the police about the disappearances, abductions and torture; all used for the same purpose, to generate reports that would inform people. This is one of the most important forms of documentation because it officially illustrated the gravity of the crimes committed by the dictatorship. As expected, it opened the eyes of many Argentines who had ignored or did not know what was taking place. Emilio Crenzel presents to readers what Nunca Mas is, describing the importance of every section.

La Historia Politica del Nunca Mas by Crenzel is an informative text that describes the purpose of every section of the CONADEP report. It legitimizes the obvious culpability of the “Fuerzas Armadas” and also describes the clandestine acts that were not yet public or recognized. He declares, “The report emphasizes the complicity of the judiciary in covering up the disappearances and the constitution of defenseless citizens (107).”Crenzel,  brings out the usual question asked after such events: How can we prevent this from happening again? And answers: “Retomando su periodización institucional de la violencia, postulando la democracia política como solución (Sabato, 186).” Throughout the text we can see that Crenzel supports the report; he says that Nunca Mas was completed to bring some justice to those whose human rights were violated. Crenzel clearly describes each section’s effectiveness. For instance, seeing and describing the clandestine centers provided a vast amount of information,   such as the number of people who were held there, the amount of time they were detained, and the intensity of the torture (115). Also, most importantly, the testimonies are shown in a declarative way with voices so people have no doubt on the severity of the cruelty (121). Each piece is extremely important and when, together as one in a book or report, it represents its’ credibility.

Presentation by Leticia Guindi, Teacher at the Nicolás Avellaneda High School

By Maria Valdovinos and Claudia Ahumada 

As a group, we had the opportunity to interview Leticia Guindi through video conferencing. Leticia Guindi is a history professor currently teaching at a high school located in Palermo,  Buenos Aires, called Nicolas Avellaneda. Guindi particularly identifies herself with history because, as a college student, she lived Argentina’s transition from dictatorship to democracy. She explained: “Me di cuenta que había nombres que estaban muy guardados en el fondo de mi memoria, que eran las situaciones que habían ocurrido en mi infancia antes del inicio de la dictadura y cuando esos nombre vuelven a surgir, me doy cuenta de lo que había sido la censura y el hecho de tomar conciencia de que me habían robado mi memoria histórica.” The transition towards democracy brought with it the first widely available public evidence of state sponsored terrorism. While state sponsored terrorism been never been fully concealed in the past, many of those who suspected its existence had lacked any legitimate proof.

Soon after her graduation, Guindi was given the opportunity to work at Nicolás Avellaneda high school, which was significantly affected by the dictatorship. The Avellaneda school suffered the disappearances of some of its students who protested against the dictatorship. To Guindi, this job was a gift since the school’s values coincide with those of her own, in regards to the importance of memory and history. Only two years ago Guindi and a friend decided to organize a workshop in which students would learn about human rights, memory, and history. This “Memory workshop” emerged after noticing that the school did not have an actual list documenting the names of the disappeared students. The workshop takes place after school, is voluntarily without a prerequisite and is free of charge. Some of the topics learned in this workshop are: History overview of Argentina and its connection with other countries. What is state terrorism? Why high school and university students were targeted? What was the dictatorship’s goal? 

Photo by Norito Hagino
Guindi explains that usually the workshops begin with about 20 students. Some of them join because they are interested in making videos and films and later decide to stay. The workshops require full commitment and a high level of responsibility in completing the assigned tasks. Despite the difficulty of conducting a project that involves such sensitive topics like disappearance, torture and death, the students were able, most of the time, to control their emotions and were determined to complete the documentary. The students felt accomplished after their outstanding work was completed. Their parents are pleased to hear about their children’s involvement in such honorable cause and are happy to see the outcome of their child’s hard work. As a whole, the main goal of the workshop is to “Hacer memoria” (make memory). Towards the end of our dialogue with Leticia Guindi, she emphasized one more time the importance of always looking back at the past: “Nuestra curiosidad se dirige al pasado pero nunca perdiendo de vista el presente.”

Photo by Norito Hagino