My days of writing to Mari are over. As the years have gone by, my need to remain connected to her living memory through those letters has faded.
Yet today, I almost feel drawn to writing to her. Today, Adolfo Scilingo was found guilty for 30 counts of murder and over 200 cases of torture. The last ten years have seen Scilingo’s testimonies reverberating throughout Argentina. The Scilingo effect. Breaking the silence of the military that had been so quietly preserved, especially after Menem pardoned the junta generals.
If I’ve learned anything in the years after the dictatorship, it’s that our politics and our government try so hard not to be defined by the Dirty Wars; yet in that desperate attempt to forget we keep somehow ending up dwelling in those years. Scilingo’s testimony was only part of a deluge of information, of confessions, of denials – all paraded before us and not brought to trial. We’ve seen military men who claim they only carried out orders; clergy that kept lists of detainees; police officers recounting stories of kidnap and murder…the reports came again and again on television, over the radio. The younger generation who didn’t experience the dictatorship knows the numbers. They’re heard the reports. Scilingo’s case is one of many military officers seeking to reconcile and get over their pain; his conviction is difficult and gives me no pleasure. But at the same time those complicit in the regime must be punished. That is my firm belief. When the Pardon Laws were revoked in 2003, I began to really see a path for the future of justice in our country. For twenty years we’ve been looking for justice in the form of trial and conviction. Take down the murderers and give them a sentence they deserve. Now it is Scilingo that has been convicted, and still yet we have to see Videla in court.
My letters to Mari stopped giving me meaning, because her individual memory is now subsumed into the larger social horror we have all experienced. The wound is still open, but it’s no longer just my wound. It’s funny how I can be so broken and disenchanted with my country, yet still feel an incredible sense of solidarity with my brothers and sisters at SERPAJ, at the school where I teach, in my neighborhood. I say “brothers and sisters” deliberately, because since I have lost my sister I have taken on the responsibility of becoming family to others in Buenos Aires who also have this burden. Where institutions failed – the Church, the judicial system, the military – the people resist. Now that Scilingo’s conviction is official, however, perhaps our institutions will lead the way towards justice – towards the pursuit of trials for higher-ups in the military once more.