Buen día a cualquiera que lea—-
It’s November. We just had what must have been the hottest day of the year since February. The extreme humidity, though, which brings panting dogs to las veredas and sends us all to los chinos to buy 3 litros of gaseosas at a time, is one of the few things that feels typical of our city. So much has changed since last summer, and even more since I last wrote, over eight years ago…
The armed forces have taken over once again. Despite what my papá will say, this time feels different. The Coup was almost 8 months ago now, but the institutional and mental militarization continues to consume the lives of civilians. Not one Argentine has gone unaffected. I am 36 years old. Maxi and I had been seriously considering having a child when it happened. We’ve decided to put off the thought, indefinitely. The bits of my life that had carried me through these endless years of turmoil are being censored one by one by authorities who wish to eradicate modernization in our country. They’ve stopped selling my favorite books, even Cortázar. My Afro-Brazilian dance classes have been cancelled, my performance group shut down for being “ethnic.” To the new government, multiculturalism is a “subversive” course of engagement in that it undermines the Western values of our Roman-Catholic nation. My marido, Maxi, has been threatened expulsion from his career as a psychologist for practicing a “Marxist science.” What’s more, his rock band has been forced out of more clubs and cafés than I can remember this year, all because some of cheeky letras of his that allude to military brutality caught a bit too much positive attention. It has been two months since he and his group practiced anywhere but in secret. They will perform to no public in any future that I can foresee. I cease to comprehend what it is not subversive, if it is not in direct support of the new government. I admire my brazen compañeras and compañeros who have not backed down. Plenty of my colleagues continue to strike against the cultural censorship and economic policies of the regime. <<¡El pueblo se levanta!>> they chant. The military steps up its repression every time.
Papá is infuriated. He has been infuriated every minute since the Coup. I know he is terrified, but he refuses to show it, thinking himself a hero by letting mamá express enough worry for the both of them while he bares thick skin and a stoic face. I visit him at my childhood home on la calle Sánchez de Bustamante nearly every morning before work. Each time I find him at the kitchen table reading el Diaro Crónica, looking up at me to say aloud something like, <<Este régimen no es distinto de los demás. La democracía superará en seguida, yo lo sé>>. But as the months go on, military violence becomes more ubiquitous and more personal, and I can tell that with each new issue of La Crónica, papá believes less and less in his words.
How can he read in el diario about the objectives of the new régimen and continue to feign this bitter optimism? His union facilities are already placed under military control, and he has lost many of the powers he was elected to uphold. Because of the rise in production prices and rapid decrease in industrial wages, he has been forced to release many hundreds of his obreros metalúricos. Videla has made himself clear: the objective of the military is to break Peronismo, and to do so, it intends to completely dismantle the unions, starting with the sedes whose leaders are openly Peronist. Papá has never wanted a bodyguard like some of the other union leaders have, but may soon give in to the protests of mamá that he hire one. While she once feared that guerrillas would assassinate him in the night, she now fears government intervention at the sede: military action against papá. She is right to fear it, too: several authorities from the CGT have already been fatally attacked, plenty already kidnapped, and many more detained with long prison sentences. I, too, fear that if papá is not right in his half-hearted promises for the future, I will walk into my old home one morning and find the kitchen table empty.
Dios, ojalá que no.