The beginning of the end

14th June, 1982

Dear Daniel,

How are you? What have you found out most recently from your work with the Argentina House in solidarity with our country, all the way in Amsterdam? Tell me more about your studies of political science at the University there. What do you intend to do after you graduate?

Once the junta allowed scores of bodies to flood our boulevards, even in blind meaningless patriotism for  a group of men chasing a ball across a soccer field, they couldn’t, from that point forward, control the masses. With increasing levels of politically explicit aims against the dictatorship, mothers, human rights activists and workers have been gathering in the streets and the junta has been increasingly unable to justify expelling them from public space. Surprisingly, the church, which as been complicit so frequently in the violence and repression, has united the workers in the face of oppressively low wages and zero leverage or bargaining power. Mother came for the resistance march on December 10th last year. She initially began attending meetings for Las Madres when I was in detention, but hasn’t stopped going for Julia’s and our son’s sake. As of three months ago, we knew she was alive, but I haven’t heard anything since. Julia was transferred from ESMA to a detention center in Rosario. I haven’t heard from you in so many years; I think the last time I physically saw you was when you and your family moved to Israel when you were six and I was twelve. I have been studying English, so I am relieved to be able to communicate with you. I wish we could speak in hebrew, but I gave up my studies once I entered secondary school. I’m sure your castellano is better than you think. You should try to get connected with some of the new writers for Julia’s leftist newspaper, which has gone underground and now publishes internationally over the telephone. I can’t believe they are still operating. Most of the original employees have been kidnapped, but those who survived by going into exile have continued to investigate and report human rights violations, any intel gained about inner-governmental operations, and progress made toward destabilizing the dictatorship. They have also been extremely active in attempting to find information about former employees such as Julia who were disappeared. They know she was transferred to Tigre when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States came to investigate the ESMA in early September 1979, about a month after I was detained and almost a year after she was. Those bastards think they can lie themselves into the afterlife just by wiping away the evidence and denying their infliction of terror on international television not just to their own people but to the entire world. This strategy they copied from Chile, when Pinochet’s officers cleared out the Estadio Nacional in Santiago during the 1978 World Cup to prove to FIFA that they had no one detained or being tortured in that space. Anyways, the newspaper (called “La Esperanza,”) discovered that dozens of prisoners were held at Tigre instead of being returned to the ESMA, and Julia was one of them. She was transferred to a center in Rosario, which I later found out from a guard who had insider information in my detention center. For three months since I received that information, I haven’t heard anything. If you can find out information through your connections with the human rights organizations working in solidarity with Argentina, I would be so grateful!

Apparently, the center in Rosario is less harsh, intended as a less violent but equally demoralizing facility where victims who have been stripped of their physical or emotional strength are placed to “recover” themselves as new social beings. I suppose they intend those beings who haven’t been killed to re-emerge after so much time in and out of a torture room as devoid of clear memories of what came before or during their trauma. They want them to be reborn, completely incapable of forming meaningful bonds with other human beings, obedient to powerful forces who dominate the discourse on what is socially normal and what is subversive, evil, anti-Argentine. I worry about our son, that Julia was so brutally hurt that our baby was never born, or was born in the most horrific of circumstances, damaged in some way that will plague him his entire life. If he is alive, and even relatively well, I know he is probably being brainwashed. I feel deprived of my most natural right to transmit my ever-evolving perspective on the world to the next generation, to put my entire soul and energy into another being in an effort to imbue in them the strength and vitality they need to confront their version of the universe. I want to hold my wife and son in my arms and rock them off into a slumber of recovery, to wash away the past and allow ourselves to extract any amount of love and joy our tainted existences can yield from each precious moment we have left on this endlessly beautiful planet. It houses parasites that have proven themselves capable of making every molecule and instant overflow with misery and hate, but we mustn’t be afraid, in fact we must live with ever more vigor and vibrance, with and for the people we care for. My dream is to be able to say these words to Julia, to gaze into her deep green eyes and breathe in and out in complete sync with her until she can do so on her own.

Speaking of hope: Argentina surrendered to Great Britain today, after the absurdly feeble attempt to redeem its reputation in the eyes of its country and the globe. I had a feeling the press about military successes was all just an extension of the lies they’d been telling us about their fights against subversion within their own country. I pity the soldiers who found themselves battling a British fleet several times as large as theirs, but I know this is the beginning of the end. Thousands upon thousands have flooded the streets again. Even if they were coming out to express their support for the symbolic war of redemption, I know its the beginning of drastic political shifting. Perhaps I am far too optimistic, but the might of the Peronist movement can be felt pulsating in the noise-ridden boulevards; the truth cannot remain hidden for much longer. When the public comes together, it teaches itself the people’s next direction, the unraveling of collective experience will take place to unearth governmental secrets. They will see that the Madres are not crazy women, but simply mothers robbed of their most clear evidence of the meaningfulness of life. I may just go downstairs to smell the fury seeping southwest out of the Plaza de Mayo toward my barrio, Boedo. You were born only a few blocks away from where my apartment is now. Maybe I’ll be able to hear the screams foretelling our future release from this mania, this silence, this surreal stain on Argentina’s name that will never be forgotten.

Looking forward to speaking soon.

Un beso enorme.




1 thought on “The beginning of the end

  1. ssvolk says:

    Thank you for this, Miguel. I share your hope that this really will be the end of the military: those who shamelessly can manage to kill their own citizens proved uniquely unable to defend the precious “patria.” Thank you for this full and detailed account. I keep you in my thoughts.

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