May 5, 1976
In just a few weeks, I’ll be finishing up this school year. This has been the eighth year of teaching at Colegio Nacional de Monserrat. I’ve grown to love my job, but it has only gotten more difficult over the years, with the past few months building into a crescendo of devastation, terror, anger and confusion for many of my students (and the teachers as well). It has become nearly impossible to answer the difficult questions my students have about what is going on with Videla. The what-if situations they would (seemingly) outlandishly propose over the past few years are now becoming a nightmare turned reality. Working an an all-boys school, especially where many student’s parents are intellectuals, involved in politics, or simply wealthy, makes the dynamic a little different. They all try to be tough and save face, even those who have to become the father of their family. I’m proud of all of my students. Whether it’s for sharing books with the boys who are more worried about whether or not their parents will come home from work that day than bringing their supplies, or for even showing up the morning after shootings, I am proud and impressed by them.
Before Videla took over, I knew that several of the boys have been involved with the ERP. The teachers are not oblivious; we know how active the ERP has always been in Cordoba. While Peron was president, Cordoba saw many student protests and labor strikes. Luckily, we hadn’t had anyone seriously injured or killed in violent demonstrations or street brawls, but some of the boys were arrested. Those students were asked to leave, solely on the basis of being arrested for street violence, as the school administration vowed to keep politics out of the equation when deciding on expulsion.
Now, with Videla in power, the situation is completely different. None of the teachers or students have seen or heard from the known ERP member students or their families. I have seen many of my colleagues disappear, and few have returned to tell stories of being detained in Buenos Aires. None of those who managed to return have been able to come back to work. One of the history teachers, Alicia Rueda, is a good friend of mine. Several weeks ago, she didn’t turn up for work. None of us said anything, and I brought her students in to sit in with my reading discussions during her scheduled times. After she was released from Buenos Aires, I visited her flat here in Cordoba. It was still a mess, furniture turned upside down, bookshelves emptied and papers strewn about. I helped Alicia pick up the place, and she hardly said a word. I could see the absolute fear in her face. Thankfully, she doesn’t live with anyone else or have children, or she might have been separated from them. We’re both working women in our thirties living on our own, and we’ve started to talk about moving into a flat together. I think it might be a good idea, but I’m trying not to show her how scared I truly am, as I know she has already had it much worse than myself.
Being a reading teacher, I must be extremely careful with the books I choose for my students. As supportive as the school administration is of the teachers here, I know that if I make one wrong choice, I could be next.