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.

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

Conversation with Pablo Piedras and Javier Campos

By Jacob Edelstein

Towards the end of our trip to Argentina, the Learning Cluster group met (via Skype and in person, respectively) with Javier Campo and Pablo Piedras, to speak about the role of documentary cinema in Argentine history and memory preservation. Pablo and Javier are each separately involved in research on human rights and crimes of the dictatorship, and together they are the editors of the online magazine Revista Cine Documental: http://www.revista.cinedocumental.com.ar/

Our conversation began on Skype with an overview of the work Javier Campo has done recently. He spoke about his book, Cine Documental, Memoria y Derechos Humanos, and about the importance of human rights research. Along with Pablo, he feels that every Argentinean has in some way been affected by the dictatorship and its crimes against humanity. Pablo shared personal anecdotes about his own father that further illustrated this point. Through our conversation, it became abundantly clear that the dictatorship’s crimes shocked Argentinean society to its very core. 

Pablo Piedras, Photo by Norito Hagino

According to what Javier and Pablo explained are popular schools of thought on the topic, the history of Argentine documentary film about the dictatorship from the last three decades can be divided into three general stages. Pablo explained that the documentary cinema coming out of the dictatorship in Argentina responds directly to the socio-political atmosphere of the time. Each of the films sees events from a different point of view, driven by a different film maker, in a different context. In this way, documentary cinema speaks for the people that created it and about the decade it was produced in.

The first of these three classifications categorizes film that was produced during and shortly after the dictatorship. During those years, military juntas took control of a large portion of Argentine broadcast media and greatly obscured public knowledge of their activities. Using this influence, members of the juntas produced films designed to shed the government and its anti-subversion resistance in a positive light. Though the images in these films are rarely seen, their narratives are biased. The cinema created by and for the Juntas portrays the Argentine struggle as though it was a war, the Juntas against subversion. Truthfully, it is hard to know whether or not this was the case. After the Malvinas War, the military government of the Juntas crumbled, clearing the way for democratization in Argentina. The transition process was not a clean one. In their fall, amidst audits and trials for the crimes against humanity committed, the Juntas did their best to destroy all compromising images that could lead their prosecutors to victory.

Years later, as documentary filmmakers attempted to compile material for documentaries about the dictatorship they encountered a very serious lack of images in the wake of this censorship. This lack of archival images about the dictatorship leads us to the second defined era of Argentine documentary cinema. Films produced during this second batch of documentaries rely heavily on the direct survivor testimony to describe state terrorism. In the absence of material with which to show the viewer a story, these documentaries generally allow a heavy handed testimony to lead the audience rather than presenting information objectively. Films during this period, such as Juan Como Si Nada Hubiera Sucedido, took on issues from an entirely different perspective than those produced directly by the dictatorship, but because of small private production and no distribution, few people saw them. 

Photo by Norito Hagino

Javier and Pablo continuously stressed how new information is constantly being presented and reinterpreted within the context of human rights research and memory preservation. Documentary cinema in the third and most recent era of Argentine film acts very much in the same way. With the start of the new millennium children of desaparecidos began to document their parent’s stories in a much more personal way. For the first time images from personal family archives appeared and gave these stories an entirely new and much more compelling personal feeling. The documentaries produced by the children of state terror victims began to ask hard questions about the motivation that drove their parent’s political activism. Most children agreed with the ideology, but question why their parents preferred militarism over safe family life.

At this point many of the films being made are investigations. Personal family archives are used to piece together shattered stories that the military Juntas left behind and unlike previous filmmakers, sons and daughters rarely create rounded stories with all questions answered. These films work to preserve memory in contemporary life so that in the future tragedies like that of the desaparecidos never are allowed to happen again. Nunca mas. 

El Jagüel de María

Text and photos by Norito Hagino

Our group had the opportunity to visit the El jagüel de María foster home. Established by the sisters Estela and Susana Sosa in 1999, the foster home has welcomed and accommodated over 300 children between age 3 and 18 to this day. Some stay at the home for a few days before being taken to their adoptive parents, while some stay there until the day he or she turns 18 years old. 

At the time we visited, there were 17 children living at the foster home. The “aunts,” the volunteers, and the collaborators do not only provide the children material needs such as a bed, food, and clothes, but emotional and spiritual care in order to protect them from possible violation of their rights in critical family situations. 

The learning cluster had the opportunity to talk and interact with the aunts of the home, the children who are living there, and a youth who lived there until the age of 18. Many of those who have lived in this foster home come back to visit their aunts, brothers, and sisters. We really felt that all the people there were like one big family, sharing much care and love, even though they are not blood relations.

Children come to the foster home for various reasons, some of them being domestic violence, malnutrition at home, and being withheld by the courts. The aunts told us that many choose to stay in the foster home because they have things like food every day, a comfortable bed, and a private bathroom inside the house. The aunts feel sad that the children do not want to go back to their homes, which would be the optimal end result for the children if their home life were suitable.

One episode that one of the aunts told us was about a brother and a sister: Juan and María José. Both of them came into the foster home together and had the opportunity to be taken by adoptive parents, but the younger brother Juan decided to stay in the foster home. The older sister, María José, is now living with an adoptive family, going to a private high school. She is aiming to become a lawyer and make money so that she can protect and take care of her young brother. Children who come to the foster home face problems such as poor-education and finance, problems which are of great concern to the aunts.

One of the biggest goals in the foster care is to prepare the children so that they live and take care of themselves when they turn 18 and leave the foster care. In order to achieve this, workshops by psychologists and psychiatrists are held to provide spiritual support for the students, and workshops of baking, art, and craft are held to help the children obtain working skills. 

For more information about El jagüel de María, please visit their website:

This video was put together for the children of El jagüel de María and it contains photos of them with their Christmas presents.

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

By Miho Saito and Monse Sepúlveda

Photo by Norito Hagino

On Thursday, January 12, we visited the Plaza de Mayo, the main square of Buenos Aires, to participate in the weekly marches of the mothers whose children have “disappeared” during the military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. By the time we arrived at 3:35 pm, which was 5 minutes after the beginning of the march, the majority of the walk had ended and we were only able to witness the last moments of the mothers’ steady walk around the Pirámide de Mayo. 

The history of Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo began on April 30, 1977, when fourteen mothers of the kidnapped and disappeared gathered in front of the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, demanding to know the truth about the fate of their abducted children. However, because there was a law that prohibited groups to stand together in a public place, the Mothers were forced to walk around center of the square: this was the beginning of their symbolic march. 

Now, even after more than 30 years, the mothers walk in the capital’s Plaza as a remembering performance, not only to make sure the world knows that the truth of the fate of their loved ones is not forgotten, but also to march for other human rights causes. Following the mothers with their white handkerchiefs and large photographs of their children, we, along with a large crowd, ended the march in front of Monumento a General Manuel Belgrano. There, the mothers stood on top of the stage and one of them, an indescribably powerful woman wearing polka dots, gave a speech that influenced me more than I could have imagined. 

I, a student who barely understands even the most basic conversational Spanish, was lost in translation and was unable to understand what the mother was saying, but her voice and presence spoke enough for my lack of understanding of the language. I physically felt the pain she endured, her strength, and her purposeful intention of speaking the truth. All I was able to do was stand there and observe; 100 percent of my focus on her. She symbolized revolution and the defiance of feminine cultural norms. From what I saw, she kept the crowd engaged with her humor and passion, resonated by the crowd’s laughter, and claps and cheers of agreement around me. The speech of the woman in polka dots finally ended when she began chanting: “Madres de la plaza, el pueblo las abraza.” (Mother of the plaza, the people embrace you) Slowly, everyone around me joined in on the chant, picking up where she left off and growing louder as the crowd began moving away from the stage. This, I realized, is precisely the purpose of performance… to be able to influence people without words and to ensure that the next generation of human rights activists can continue the chant the mothers started.

Photo by N.H.

Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. Aquel día mientras oíamos a las madres proclamar su derecho a la información y denunciar a esos “fachos” que cambiaron sus vidas hace 3 décadas, me vi embargada por un momento de comprensión… 

Después de caminar alrededor del monumento una vez, como muestra simbólica de la continua lucha por encontrar a aquellos que fueron desaparecidos durante la dictadura militar, las Madres se dirigieron a un podio para dirigirse a la audiencia. Con un vozarrón inspirador, una de las Madres tomo el micrófono y a pulmón abierto grito sus denuncias contra el régimen. “Esos fachos desgraciados,” decía aquella dama, “que no nos dejaron ser quienes debimos haber sido.” Continúo los minutos siguientes criticando algunos de los problemas que Argentina afronta hoy en día, pero también elogiando al gobierno de los Kirchner y su compromiso social. La Madre anuncio que la semana próxima sería la primera vez que las Madres no marcharían en la plaza, porque iban al lugar donde “nuestro querido Nestor” nació. 

Pero más que oír, yo me dedique a sentir. A sentir aquella energía que las Madres emanan. Energía de convicción. Energía de todos menos resignación. Pero por sobre todo, energía de dolor. Cuando me tome un momento para entender por qué aquellas madres estaban reunidas allí, entendí que cada una de ellas perdió a un hijo o una hija. Ellas son prueba que ese dolor no las suelta fácilmente. Es un dolor que no da respiro. A las Madres, no las ha dejado por más de 30 años. Se arraiga profundo y obliga a actuar. Estas mujeres no asisten cada Jueves a las 3:30 religiosamente solamente como postura política, sino porque debemos entender que ellas aun afrontan la desaparición de sus hijos e hijas cada día. 

Y mientras aquella Madre hablaba aquel día, de golpe enmudecí embargada por ese momento de entendimiento fugaz: el dolor perdura a través de nuevas democracias, presidentes electos y reelectos, o decisiones políticas progresivas. El Nunca Más debe empezar por el Siempre Recordar.

Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada

By Malahat Zhobin, Kimberley Ng, and Claudia Ahumada

The largest detention center during the Dirty War in Argentina was “La Escuela de Suboficiales de Mecánica de la Armada” or “The Navy Mechanics School” (ESMA). About 340 detention centers were documented, but this specific detention center was located in the city of Buenos Aires, and is where many disappearances, torture sessions and illegal executions took place.

ESMA is also known for the appropriation of children, as well as identity forgery and illegal adoption. The identity forgery was done by the imprisoned themselves as they were forced to work while having to listen to people being tortured right next door. While the tortures occurred, loud music was used to hide the screams of the kidnapped. One technique used to get victims to speak was torturing children in front of their parents. Sometimes they tortured parents in front of their children. It was estimated that about 60 babies were born and passed through ESMA. They were given to couples who couldn’t have children of their own, who had ties to the military, and sometimes military officials took them into their own homes to be raised with similar political views.

A massive amount of bodies were never recovered. At ESMA, corpses were buried under the sports field, in cemeteries; registered as “NN” Name Unknown, and were disposed through aerial disposal at sea known as “Death Flights”. After the dictatorship ended, many lost hope for justice when, in 1990, a Law of National Reconciliation was issued that created an official pardon for all offenses committed by torturers. Since then, however, many have been convicted on charges that have carried a punishment of life in prison, while others are still awaiting trials and sentencings.

All the information we learned through text books and articles wasn’t enough to suffice our curiosity about visiting ESMA. With the help of Soka University, our Learning Cluster was fortunate enough to travel to Argentina and visit one of the many detention centers.

After making two attempts to visit the much anticipated ESMA, the third attempt was finally successful. Being able to see the infamous detention center, also known to some who lived through the atrocities as an extermination camp, was a very important moment for our group. We were well prepared with information from stories such as Victoria Donda’s and many others that took place in ESMA. We were ready to finally add a picture to all the texts that we had read about ESMA.

Stepping into ESMA with the mindset of entering an extermination camp or a detention center was a surreal experience for all of us in the group. Standing on the grounds where we knew that about 30 years ago hundreds of detainees were brought into to be tortured and eventually lead to their death was a spine chilling experience. As we into the torture chambers of ESMA, we couldn’t help but be affected by the negative energy that haunted the place.

By being in the setting of the many stories we had read about and watched movies of, our imaginations couldn’t help but run wild. With the aid of plaque cards that gave us testimonies and short anecdotes of the detainees, we were able to imagine how truly terrible it must have been to be detained at ESMA. It was difficult to believe the relationship of where ESMA was located, right in the middle of a city, to the public’s ignorance and neglect towards ESMA.

It put a heavy weight on our hearts and minds to be able to connect the happenings of ESMA and of the public. Being at ESMA made us realize that we were able to claim that we knew someone who was born there, Victoria Donda. We knew someone who had lost their life at ESMA, Donda’s parents. We were connected to ESMA. Being at ESMA helped validate everything we had learned about the dictatorship and gave us a solid ground to root the foundations of our Learning Cluster. 

Photo by Norito Hagino

Reading about Victoria Donda and learning about what ESMA did to her parents, many of us pondered upon the necessity of learning about it. After all, this Learning Cluster was designed to learn about Children’s Rights in Argentina. However, from the two weeks of our trip, we are now able to explain how our visit to ESMA plays a vital role in our Learning Cluster.

During the military dictatorship from the late 70s to the early 80s, there was political unrest as many were fighting against the overly controlling government. Many of the activists who were involved included high school and college students. Children and teenagers alike do not carry as heavy a social responsibility as full grown adults do. They are supposedly politically inactive for they are denied access to political involvement such as voting, and are usually neglected by government authorities. In the only way they knew how, the teens’ indirect political involvement in rebelling against the dictatorship had sparked much anger and within the government.

In an attempt to stop the revolt, these teenagers and young adults were given their very own taste of hell: ESMA. The way in which these young lives were treated was inhumane, ripping these youth of their rights as a people, the act of which is a big part of the focus of our learning cluster. On top of that, the military almost wiped out a whole generation of young political activists. Powerless and defenseless, they could only sit in their shackles and coffin sized cells while awaiting their destinies.

River Plate Stadium and Parque de la Memoria

Photo by Norito Hagino

By Katie Kamimoto

Today we had a field trip to ESMA, the soccer stadium, and the Memorial Park. ESMA, Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada, was a naval academy which also served as one of the main detention centers in the middle of Buenos Aires during the dictatorship in the 1970’s. Unfortunately we were not able to look at the museum today since they were on their summer schedule, so instead we walked to the River Plate football stadium where the 1978 FIFA World Cup was held. There has been a lot of controversy over the 1978 FIFA World Cup which has many disturbing memories associated with the World Cup for many Argentineans.

 In 1978, when the whole country was celebrating when Argentina won the Cup, less than 1km away there was ESMA, the detention center holding hundreds of people in captivity. As the city was celebrating the victory on the streets, imagining the psychological torture the detained must have been through while in their cells as the whole city celebrated, must have been immense.

The Memorial Park was built in homage to the people detained, disappeared and assassinated, and aims to share the history of state terrorism by the arts. The Memorial Park is built next to the River Plate, which is symbolic of the many who were victims of the “flights of death”. The “flight of death” was a tactic the military used in order to destroy any evidence of bodies even existing by drugging the detainees to make then unconscious, loading them on a plane, and dumping them, hands and feet tied, into the river. The main monument had four walls with the names of the disappeared engraved in chronological and alphabetical order. It was installed in an open zigzag shape representing an open wound that still needs healing, a kind of healing can only be made possible by truth and justice. The different art installations share the history of the state terrorism, reminding everyone the horrors that happened during the dictatorship.

Walking from ESMA to River Stadium to the Memorial Park made me realize how short in distance everything was from one another. ESMA was just like any other building located in the center of the city, there is no way that the businesses and the people living in the apartments did not hear the screams and the cries of the tortured. The amount of fear that the state imposed on the citizens of Argentina allowed them to continue with the torturing and the disappearing of thousands of innocent people. Even though the horrors of state terrorism are now over, the disappeared have disappeared, and the only thing for Argentina to do now is to move on, but also to never forget.
Photo by Norito Hagino
Photo by Norito Hagino
Photo by Norito Hagino

Lyor Zylberman

By Laura Cossette

Lyor Zylberman is an expert in the relationship between image and memory. Specifically, he focuses on cinema and the dictatorship in Argentina. He is also part of a film magazine, and he continues studying image and sound at the University of Buenos Aires. The reason he became interested in this topic is his own family background; Zylberman’s grandparents are survivors of the Holocaust, which led to his strong affinity to the concept of, what he considers the genocide, in Argentina. Calling what happened in Argentina during the dictatorship in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s a genocide is very controversial, however Zylberman stands by his point of view and argued for it with eloquence. In Zylberman’s opinion, genocide is anything that transforms social relationships or society as a whole through the use of extermination. He then continued to explain his reasons why he considers what happened in Argentina a genocide. A summary of his reasons are that the guerrillas were exterminated, people stopped participating in politics, and, economically, the industrial base/complex that existed in Argentina was destroyed. All of these were significant changes that occurred as a result of the exterminations carried out by the state. 

Ex Centro Clandestino de Detención, Tortura y Exterminio ‘Olimpo’
Photo by T.C.T
After this explanation he continued on to speak more about the relationship between film and the genocide in Argentina.The role of film in the preservation, and also creation, of memory is indescribably important. This is especially true in the case of the genocide in Argentina because there were no visuals of what occurred in the detention centers, as Zylberman explains. Zylberman points out that, unlike the Holocaust, no pictures were ever taken of the detention centers when they were functioning. Therefore, films play a monumental role in understanding how the concentration camps, as he referred to them, functioned. One interesting insight that Zylberman offered was that of the approximately 600 films made about the dictatorship, none were about Videla. He compares this to the hundreds of movies that have been made about Hitler, but does not offer any possible answer to why there is this substantial difference in Argentinean film history. One of the last significant pieces of information he provided is the progression of themes of the films. He states that in the 1980s the majority of the films made about the dictatorship were about good people vs. evil people. Secondly, it was cinema of impunity in the ‘90s. Lastly, in 2002 to the present, films shifted to the theme of memory. Overall, Zylberman offered us intriguing and unique insights into not only the relationship between film and the genocide, but also about the dictatorship in general.

Presentation by Judge Jorge Edwin Torlasco

Photo by Norito Hagino

Today we went to the downtown area to meet 
with Judge Jorge Edwin Torlasco, who was one of the six judges that presided over the trial against the heads of the Argentinean state during the 1976-1983 military regime. 

Mr. Torlasco explained that during the first years of the regime, he and other judges did notice that something bad was happening in the country. Even though the legal system no longer functioned, they still received requests for information on people who were disappeared or demands to prosecuting someone who was known to be involved in these disappearances. When president Raul Alfonsin came to power in 1983, the judicial system was restored and the president himself advocated for prosecuting the military juntas. At first, the military’s judicial system was to preside over the trials but, after months of waiting, the civilian judges took over and on April 22, 1985 the “Trial Against the Military Juntas” began. During the 5 months the trial lasted, 500 witnesses gave their testimonies, which were considered the most revealing of the atrocities of the regime. In the end, the members of the military juntas were found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to prison; some were given 4 years while others were given life sentences. 

Soka University students with Judge Torlasco
Photo by Norito Hagino

Mr. Torlasco told us he thinks the trial happened in Argentina (unlike many other countries
in Latin America where similar atrocities occurred), firstly because of the president’s commitment to justice, and secondly because Argentina had reached “a turning point in its history.” The people had over and over seen the political situation deteriorate and by the end of the military regime, the country was ready to put a stop to decades of violence.

When asked what the main challenge of the trial was he responded that, unlike what people often believe, finding evidence was the least of their difficulties, since crimes of this magnitude leave behind thousands of trails. Instead, the main challenge was the sole fact of having the trial. “People didn’t believe this was possible,” he said, “our friends didn’t believe, our families didn’t believe, so just proposing to have this trial was the most difficult part.” Even though the military regime had ended, the military still had power and posed a serious threat to those involved in the trial. 

Mr. Torlasco also shared that, because he had to spend five months listening to testimonies, by the end of the process he thought he had grown accustomed to it. However, the last week of the trial all six judges broke to tears when a nurse, who had been held in a detention center and tortured for days, told her story. He also told us the story of a young man who also gave his testimony in the trial. After being imprisoned for a long time with three other friends, he had managed to escape from the detention center. While they hid in a basement, one of his friends went out to look for help. After a couple of hours, this young man saw a car approaching… it was his dad’s. “Every time I think of this story, I’m moved” Mr. Torlasco shared, “just imagine, being saved by your own father.” 

Judge Toralsco
Photo by Norito Hagino
Mr. Torlasco told us he believes what occurred was not genocide because the people who died were not all from one group. Instead, he said, what occurred was a crime against humanity. He also said that after revising the evidence during the trial, the judges concluded that 9.000 people had been disappeared; instead of the 30.000 the Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo believe were disappeared. 

We had the honour of listening to Mr. Torlasco read the sentence to the military juntas. Being able to hear it from was of the six judges was very moving and we share this moment with you in this video. 

Speaking with Mr. Torlasco was a unique experience that helped us understand the magnitude and importance of the trial against the military juntas.

In this clip, Judge Jorge Edwin Torlasco describes how the story of the men who escaped from the detention center Mansion Sere still moves him.

In this clip, Judge Torlasco shares with us the complete story of the men who escaped from the detention center.

Museo Evita

By Miho Saito

Museo Evita, located on Lafinur 2988 C.A. de Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a museum dedicated to Eva Perón. This museum, built in the first decade of the 20th century and declared as a “National Historical Monument,” opened on July 26th, 2002 to mark the 50 year anniversary of Evita’s death. The 20 exhibitions inside Museo Evita accounts Evita’s life from childhood to death, including her clothes, portraits, and details about her theatrical and political career. We are able to know Evita and the life of the nation surrounding her by literally walking through the recreations, the dynamic design of the museum’s layout, and the exhibitions, as if taking a visual journey down her life. The museum’s rooms and halls are laid out chronologically (taken from museoevita.org): 
* Permanent Exhibition of Eva Duarte (first room): Prologue, Myth, Childhood and family, Eva the actress, Meeting Perón 

* Eva Perón (second room): October 17, The wedding, First lady/ trip to Europe, Temporary Home N 2, Female Vote, 1949 Constitution, Eva Perón Constitution 

* An Unexpected End (third room): The Renouncement, Her disease, Death and her Body, The Reason for my Life 
* Temporary Exhibition (fourth room): Exhibition, Photo Gallery, Art Space 

“I am the wife of the president of Argentine people, but presidencies expire and in the end, history remembers unselfish heart and upright conscience” (“October 17” Eva Perón- second room). Also known as “Holy Evita,” Evita was a patriot for poor people and a “die hard adherent to the fight for the people’s cause.” She founded the Maria Eva Duarte de Perón Social Aid Foundation, which supported a mass democracy advocating rights related to workers, families, senior citizens, education, culture, and social use of wealth. A symbol of women’s rights, Evita changed the nation by creating the Female Perónist party and heavily influenced the women’s right to vote. She created a foundation for women to take their place in the political scene, which was unheard of during this era in Argentina. 

The unique history and significance of Evita’s life is 

important for our Learning Cluster and the Argentine nation because the legacy she left behind marks the establishment of its society today. She created a model for couples in government, where the wife is the President’s “right hand man” and plays a considerable role; a model followed by the former president and his wife, Néstor Carlos Kirchner. Evita not only established the wife’s position in a presidency, but was also the head of the movement that dramatically changed the history of Argentina. As a vital figure of the Peronist movement, which began during the presidency of Juan Perón, Evita popularized the movement that led to the disappearances of those who followed its ideals during Argentina’s Dirty War.