Sunday, 3 February 2013

Argentina: Urban memorials

La Nación had a very interesting article about urban memorials this week. It's worth checking out for the pictures. Here's a translation of just the part dealing with the dictatorship:

Walking in the capital can turn into a journey back in time. On the pavements of Buenos Aires, hundreds of coloured tiles contrast with the boring grey of the city and interrupt the daily walks of pedestrians with a message which recalls the most recent dictatorship. 

"Here lived Roberto Fernando Lertora, abducted along with Adriana Mosso de Carlevaro, militants of the people, detained-disappeared on 27 March, 1977, in an act of State Terrorism", reads one of the mosaic plaques, which is almost a square metre large.
Photo: LA NACION / Sebastián Rodeiro

The project is the work of the local coordinator for memory and justice (Coordinadora de Barrios por Memoria y Justicia), a federation of local assemblies which started leaving traces of the disappeared on 2 December 2005, near the church of Santa Cruz in San Cristóbal.

Since then, they've never stopped. "There must be about 500 stones in the capital and other parts of the country," says Pablo Zalazar from the group.

"The idea of the tiles is that the 30,000 disappeared people won't be just a number, but a history of life," Zalazar explains. Before installing each mosaic, the coordinator investigates the person it is going to remember - who they were, where they lived, what they did, how and where they were abducted. 

Then, they record the data in a book edited by the space of memory institute (Instituto Espacio para la Memoria), which is currently working on the third edition.

Piecing together the history of the life of a disappeared person is a complex task. "Sometimes there were five or six of us. Not even the relatives got close," points out Esther Pastorino from the group. "But in other cases, there were families separated by the dictatorship who got back together because of the placing of a tile". 

Why do they do it? "It's a message that memory remains. For us, they're not tombstones, but a signpost for our fellow city-dwellers," reflects Zalazar, and brings up the point of the project: "We want young people to be aware of the issue, so it really will never happen again". 

The city's "Never Again"is also evoked by the memory park (parque de la memoria) next to the university campus, the memorial under the 25 de Mayo motorway, on the avenue Paseo Colón, and the 32 white headscarves of the Madres on the ground of the Plaza de Mayo. 

Painted 25 years ago by the Madres' support group (Frente de Apoyo a las Madres), the headscarves "represent life", Hebe de Bonafini told La Nación. "They don't bear any name because they represent all the 30,000 disappeared", the head of the Madres points out, adding "The headscarf has to do with the purity of the ideals of our children, whom we do not recognise as dead".

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