June 14th, 1982


Dear Mari,


I write to you every time I begin to feel like I’m drifting farther away from you. Sitting down and explaining to you all that has happened brings you closer to the present; even though I can’t send these letters, somehow the act of writing down information to share with you keeps you alive and keeps you close, even though I know that you are probably gone forever.


Several things have happened this week that I think are moving Argentina in a new direction – or at least are helping me to realize my own thoughts and actions.

The first thing that occurred that I will tell you about – it’s actually not the first thing, but it’s more important anyway – is that as of today, June 14th, the war over the Malvinas is over. I can’t believe that only a few weeks ago President Galtieri claimed that taking the Islas Malvinas was our national right and necessity as a proud Argentine people.


It’s been interesting watching the sentiment in the city evolve. I feel like such a passive observer as I bike to and from la panadería, or when I go to la universidad. I watch faces on the street. I notice the way people walk in groups, or by themselves. I noticed the flags – at the beginning of April when the war over the Malvinas started, people hung flags out their windows. On the streets they walked with more bounce in their step. Finally, a piece of news that we can talk about publicly on the streets – provided you say the right thing. Yes, of course Argentina has a right to the islands. It was time to fight against old British colonialism and take back what is ours.


This is just like the World Cup four years ago, when the junta stirred up national pride in an attempt to unify the country under their political agenda. In April the military started this war to give rise to those same feelings again – to unite us as a nation in contrast to an “other,” in this case the dregs of colonialism on the British-ruled Islas Malvinas. No more! I will not let the government construct this narrative of national pride for me, in an attempt to distract me from my pain.


This is the way I see my own struggle to find you Mari. Our pain is part of a collective story – the military doesn’t want us to see it like that, but it’s true. They have constructed a story that says that you were a subversive and you were part of a disease that needed to be purged from Argentina. It’s our job as Argentine people, the friends and family of the disappeared, to counter that story – to stand up and fight. Our collective trauma brings us together. Who cares about the Islas Malvinas?


This leads to the second thing that happened this week: the Pope John Paul II came and visited Buenos Aires on the 11-12th of June. I wrote down part of his speech about the Malvinas War because I grew angry listening to it on the radio:


In this spirit, permit me from this very moment to invoke Christ’s peace on all the victims, on both sides, of this armed conflict between Argentina and Great Britain; to show my affectionate closeness with all families who mourn the loss of some loved one; to ask the governments and the international community to take measures to avoid greater damage, to heal the wounds of war and to facilitate the restoration of areas for a just and enduring peace and progressive serenity of hearts.


As if the Pope doesn’t know about the families mourning the disappearances of loved ones within Argentina already. As if this conflict arose out of nothing, as if it was a terrible tragedy that has no foundation in what has happened in my country in the last few years. How dare he come to Buenos Aires and talk about this stupid conflict with his deflated calls for international peace, when our own government has waged a war internally for six years now? The Church as an institution has offered nothing, given no support to its people, and the Pope talks about “enduring peace” and “serenity of hearts” instead of truth and justice.


It seems unreal that once my goal was to go to seminary; now it is clear to me that my Church, my parents’ Church, is not the institution that can give the support that we Argentines need. Politicized theology became a weapon of the junta. But at the same time I’m not sure whether or not Christian theology can be used to find justice in Argentina either.


And finally, Mari, this question leads us to the last event I wanted to tell you about. As I have said again and again, I am so tired of waiting for answers. In my studies at la Universidad del Salvador, I have again started to get involved with some other students who are interested in radicalized theology. The junta twisted our church, they twisted our national pride, all to justify and legitimize their destruction. And the Church, both within Argentina and internationally, has not recognized that disgusting appropriation of Christianity just yet. The Pope’s visit has certainly clarified that for me. We want to take back our faith and use it for something good, something right. We’ve started talking about going to Servicio, Paz y Justicia, or SERPAJ – a Christian human rights organization founded in part by Aldofo Peréz Esquivel. Esquivel won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1980, the same year that the Madres got nominated too! He’s not in Argentina at the moment, but the group’s work focuses on demanding answers and truth about human rights violations in Argentina, and also more broadly in Latin America. I wish I could get involved with the Madres de la Plaza Mayo, but the best thing I can do there is encourage our mother to walk. She went for first time last month, Mari! I saw her there with the wife of Professor Bendenez, who disappeared as well. Now that the military has failed in the Malvinas, I think the Madres will become stronger. And so will all the other groups of Argentine citizens demanding answers.

1 thought on “June 14th, 1982

  1. ssvolk says:

    Important insights, Rainer.

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