Saturday, 21 March 2009

Argentina: Children of Disappeared, 30 Years on

As we approach the 33rd anniversary of Argentina's last coup d'etat, Pagina/12 brings together 5 children of the disappeared, all working in the cultural field, to discuss their work and their engagement with memory issues.

They are: documentary filmmaker Nicolás Prividera; director of, among others, Los rubios, Albertina Carri; writer Félix Bruzzone; and musicians Malena D’Alessio of Actitud María Marta and Gastón Gonçalves of Los Pericos.

It's an interesting piece. Apparently the interview took place in a bar near the ESMA where they were supposed to do the photoshoot, but at least two of the group were uncomfortable with that and photographs took place elsewhere. I mean, I'm hardly surprised. I know the ESMA is now a museum and cultural centre - or at least on its way to becoming one - but really, would you fancy posing for pics in the place where your parents were murdered? Honestly.

Aside from that, there's nothing morbid about the hijos' reflections. On the contrary, they seem to share a pride in the memory of their parents and a belief in the importance of cultural productions and their ability to do good. Gonçalves' younger brother was also disappeared and only discovered his true identity 20 years later - as it turns out, he was already a fan of Los Pericos, without realising that he was related to its bass player.

According to D'Alessio, whose band is profoundly connected with social movements, "music is a branch of the arts which influences young people. I think it's a tool with a really powerful ability to effect change". For Carri, "In some form, what we are doing artistically, with respect to the memory of those who aren't here, is a form of loving revenge". Isn't that a fascinating idea? Loving revenge. Sometimes people accuse the relatives of the disappeared of being bitter and stuck in the past, unable to let go. But these strong adults have taken their experiences and the memory of their parents as inspiration to create something and to work towards improving the world they live in. When, thirty years ago, the junta abducted young adults of around this age, in the midst of starting their own families, it was hoping to remake society into one in which social participation was crushed and fragmented and to indoctrinate the children into opposing all their parents' ideals. Some might argue that, in some measure, it succeeded. But it failed spectacularly in these cases.

"Los desaparecidos no pueden pasar desapercibidos" (Pagina/12)

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