Today our new President Alfonsín was sworn into office. His election in November came after months of vigorous campaigning; his rally in Buenos Aires in October brought people out onto the streets by the thousands. I’ve included a photo in this letter for you, Mari, of that rally. It was an amazing experience. I went with a big group of my university friends. Together we raced through the crowd of more than 800,000, waving banners and shouting the mantras of our generation and the legacy that we bear as young survivors of the junta dictatorship.
My work with SERPAJ has led me to write a testimony about you Mari, and your disappearance. It was undeniably one of the most difficult tasks I’ve accomplished – but it was necessary and it was right. It seems unfair that my testimony is so short and matter-of-fact, at least in comparison to the terror our family has experienced and the emotional upheaval necessary to even write the testimony in the first place. But at the same time I know my small contribution is part of a larger movement to publicize our collective trauma. Mami now is an official member of the Madres; because of her, your photo appears on the banners the Madres hold as they march in the Plaza. We pronounce your name publicly, along with the other hundreds of desaparecidos.My sister, Maricia Cristiana Esteban Castanetti, was taken and disappeared from her home along with her husband in Mendoza in February of 1978. She is still missing, and we want to know why. We want to know where she was taken, or where her body has been buried.
At least we know this: the military’s attempt to form an Argentina narrative against the left, against “subversion”, and in favor of the junta has completely failed. We were cowed and subdued into silence after each disappearance, but could not be quiet forever. I wish you could see how much mami has changed, how much I have changed. We are part of something so much bigger now. Collectively, our social trauma transformed into opposition and even defiance.
On a more reserved note, part of me wants to join my friends tonight and celebrate the end of the dictatorship, but another part of me holds back. I wonder what this transition to democracy really means. After the end of the Malvinas war, Argentina was a landslide into political chaos, economic depression, and unpopular sentiment towards the junta. Bignone’s government was a transition for the junta, on their way out. But can a government that came into power via force really leave peacefully? Will the military really be able to accept that our voices overwhelm their own?