Thursday, 24 April 2008

That's the Plaza We Want to See

This article in Pagina/12 caught my eye not specifically because of its main purpose - which is to report on a new educational initiative in Buenos Aires - but because of comments made by the mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri.

"I want to congratulate you for this photo and for this image of the Plaza [de Mayo] full of children, which is what we want to see, not that other Plaza which has to do with the past, violence and frustration", he declared, in a clear reference - and insult - to the campaign of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in that very square which, as the newspaper comments, has become 'an emblem of the struggle for memory and justice'.

Macri's comments are strongly reminiscent of the attitude of former President Carlos Menem, who insisted that "the past has nothing more to teach us" (cited in Marguerite Feilowitz, A Lexicon of Terror, 1998, p. xi). Menem also warned, chillingly, that an "exaggerated use of liberty" (public protests, harking back to the past and so on) could lead to "another contingent of the Plaza de Mayo demanding their children" (cited in Diana Taylor, Disappearing Acts, 1997, p. 15). In other words, if you insist on remembering past abuses, they could happen again - to you.

Despite the miserable state of justice in Argentina during his leadership, Menem ultimately failed to draw a line under the memory of the 'dirty war' and force everybody to move on. It's simply not possible to tell parents whose children were murdered that they should now give up, go home, and be quiet like good little citizens. Nevertheless his point, that the past holds us back, is clearly still expressed in some quarters.

Anyway, the whole article is here: De guardapolvo y desmemoria.

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