This past week our group saw the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo march, visited the Parque de la Memoria, and took a tour of the former ESMA detention center. As you will read below, each of these experiences was extremely emotional for differing reasons.
The mothers of the people kidnapped and “disappeared” during the military dictatorship have marched in the Plaza de Mayo since 1977 demanding that their children are returned to them and that their abductors (and murderers) be brought to justice. Every Thursday, these womyn continue to march and serve as a reminder of the atrocities that occurred just a few decades ago. The madres have always been a major inspiration to me, fighting for justice even when speaking out could mean an untimely end. Thinking about the demonstrations that have taken place in the Plaza de Mayo and what they stood for was extremely powerful, this moment was truly life changing.
June 18th, Parque de la Memoria
The Parque de la Memoria was created as a site of public memory dedicated to the victims of the military dictatorship. The park was built next to the Río de la Plata, where many of the “disappeared” people were dropped from airplanes. These Vuelos de la Muerte, or death flights, were a common way to dispose of bodies. People were drugged and then dropped into the river alive to face their death. The monument that hit me the hardest was this series of walls that included all of the names of the people who were “disappeared” by the military dictatorship. The wall just kept stretching on and on, listing the name and age of every victim, also including if the victim was pregnant at the time of disappearance. The youngest person I saw on the wall was 9 years old.
June 24th, ex-ESMA detention center
ESMA used to be a Naval Mechanical school where as many as 5,000 of the estimated 30,000 “disappeared” were kept throughout the military dictatorship. This experience was particularly harrowing because ESMA served as a forced labor camp and detention center. The building where the prisoners stayed and the tortures took place has not been restored at all, so it remains the way that it was left when the Naval officers cleared out all of their belongings and any proof after the dictatorship fell. Today, I stood in a room where people had been beaten, tortured, and raped. Even though I have been learning about the Era of State Terrorism for the past three weeks, the trip to ESMA made it all feel so much more concrete and real.