Saturday, 8 February 2014

Buenos Aires detention centres transferred to nation

The government of Buenos Aires and the Argentine federal government came to an agreement, announced this week, to transfer the former detention centres in the capital city to national control. These include the former ESMA site, where a new museum project is planned.

The aim is for the sites to be visited by many more people than before, and for them to become a tool to be used by schools to a greater extent than previously, Argentina's human rights secretary, Martín Fresneda, told Pagina/12. 

Also affected are the centres known as Virrey Cevallos, Atlético, Olimpo and Automotores Orletti. All of them were previously administrated by the Instituto Espacio para la Memoria (IEM) under the Buenos Aires government.

According to the paper, many of the buildings have not been adequately preserved thus far. It also reports that the plans are supported by the Madres, Abuelas and HIJ@S groups. However, the IEM is opposed. Nobel peace prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel has expressed his concern about the "politicisation" of memory sites and the "forcing" of a museum on the ESMA in an op-ed for Perfil.

The idea is to fully open the ESMA site, which is currently only available for guided tours and events and is not fully accessible to the disabled.

There does not seem to have been much reporting on this besides the two articles linked below. I do not pretend to have a clear overview of the actual consequences for the memory sites in the Argentine capital, but my initial reaction is to note that the major relatives' organisations do not seem to be objecting to the plans and that the idea of a permanent museum on the ESMA site is a good one. Of course, it would need to be sensitively done, but ten years after the ESMA was semi-opened to the public, it seems strange that you need to book a guided tour in advance to get in. That is just not the way to maximise the number of people who visit. Moreover, Argentina could do with an emblematic museum along the lines of the Chilean memory museum, I would argue, and what better site than the country's biggest detention centre?

Cambio de órbita para los sitios de la memoria (Pagina/12)
Negocios que afectan la memoria histórica (

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