Day Fifteen: Park and Garage

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Written by Jonathan:

After an early start on Monday morning we tried unsuccessfully to catch a bus to the Palermo neighborhood on the shores of the Rio del Plata. All of the buses were full so we decided to split into groups to take taxis to the Parque de la Memoria. A stunning display on the edge of the massive river between Argentina and Uruguay, the park encompasses a visual history of the Argentine dictatorship, works of art commemorating those whose lives were lost, and multiple large walls of names and ages of those who disappeared and were killed. We used this opportunity to learn more about the involvement of the US in the dictatorships in Argentina and other South American nations. Our tour guide gave us a brief history of Operation Condor, the US military plan to install far right wing military dictatorships throughout South America for economic reasons.

After a long bus ride across town and a quick supermarket lunch we arrived at Automotores Orletti, a past auto shop that once served as a clandestine detention and torture center. The people who ran the memory site gave us an overview of the history of Argentina leading up to the 1976 coup, and the relations of the United States with Argentina at the time in particular. During this talk we enjoyed mate tea, a popular drink throughout Argentina that we had been meaning to try. The people at the shop told us all about Operation Condor, and the reactions of the Argentine people to such US interference.

We eventually got a full tour of the automotive shop, and it was striking to see that it had barely been changed since its days as a clandestine detention center. The rooms in which prisoners had been detained and tortured were particularly disturbing, as there were still bullet holes in the walls, and our guides gave us detailed descriptions of what had occurred there. It was also interesting to discover that one of the rooms in this building had been used as an office for Uruguayan soldiers and secret police, showing the true collaboration between Operation Condor countries.

Later in the night a group of us went to a cafe to meet with a woman who is involved with an organization that makes "baldosas," which are plaques on the sidewalk commemorating the last known location of people who had been disappeared during the junta. It is shocking to find such markers all across the city, in front of schools, houses, and businesses. This woman told us all about the process of identifying these locations and working with the family of the victim to create the baldosa.

Overall it was a great day of reflection and realization, as we learned more about the involvement of the United States in the atrocities that we have been hearing about. On Tuesday we look forward to continuing this learning by visiting ESMA, a former extermination camp during the junta.

Comments

Guess these upside down

Guess these upside down photos must be from the Southern Hemisphere ;-) Thanks Dave, Hannah and Greg for what certainly has been a fabulous and thought provoking trip. We look forward to seeing you all, and hearing more details in the coming days. Safe travels home! Dave Cannard

Ha!

I can't figure out why the blogging software has decided to start flipping pictures upside down. They definitely start off upright, but something changes along the way...

Were you affected by the 8.2

Were you affected by the 8.2 earthquake in Chile.It sounds like this trip will have a huge impact on everyone. Thank you again Dave for juggling such a big group. ...Tracie Bennink

Nope!

Had no idea until I checked the news last night. Our trip has now been bookended by two big quakes in northern Chile. And they're still expecting a bigger one...

Glad you're safe...

I was unsure what your itinerary was and given the recent earthquake in Chile, I was worried and hoping you were all safely away. I'm very interested in the baldosas, your description of the organization that orchestrates these memorials reminds me of Las Damas Blancas group in Cuba who are (largely women) protestors who march in silence throughout Havana to mark the 'disappearance' of their friends and families who are being held as political dissidents. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this when you guys get back and seeing pics, too!

Safe travels home.

Very similar concept

The central organization in Argentina is the Madres of the Plaza de Mayo. Out of that group emerged others devoted to human rights in more specific areas, like these neighborhood baldosa groups.