May 5, 2005: Looking back

May 5, 2005.

Hola todos,

Today is my 60th birthday, and for some reason it feels fitting to look back on the last 40 years of my life as I enter old age. Too much has changed in the world to fully address every major event I have lived through, and too much has changed in me to even comment on my actions as youngster growing up in 1970s Buenos Aires. But I think I want to take this special occasion in my life to think about the relationships in my life, including my relationship with Argentina.

Anyways, when I think of the most important part of my life, I think of my children. My children have now grown up and started families of their own—I can barely believe it. Alejandro is married with three beautiful children, and they live in a beautiful house in the B.A. suburb of Tigre. Dafne married her childhood friend and long-time sweetheart José a couple years ago. Last year we celebrated the birth of her second child and first daughter, Cristina. When Dafne told me that she planned to name her daughter after her aunt—my sister—I broke down in tears. I can’t imagine how my father, had he still been alive, would have reacted. I could see him breaking down as well, but I can also see him not reacting, keeping his emotions bottled up in the same way he has always done.

I also find myself thinking about my mother, who died far too young from liver failure, way before any of this mess with Cristina first started. Having experienced the death of my mother at a relatively young age definitely shaped my experience of the dictatorship compared to my peers of similar upbringing. I had much more cynical view of the world, and I think I was much more used to death than most of the wealthy, sheltered children I had met through obligatory social functions I attended when my mother was still alive. I was also a wealthy, sheltered child, but I changed a lot after experiencing so much tragedy at a young age. I also view medical school as having changed my outlook on a lot of things in life. I found myself viewing things with a kind of cold rationality typical of a level-headed medical student. This kind of attitude kept me relatively calm during the chaos of Cristina’s disappearance—at the same time, however, I find myself wishing I could have been more of a radical and enacted some type of change, instead of sitting idly by and waiting for someone to enact the change for me.

To change topics a little, I constantly think about the kind of Argentina I want for Dafne and José. Though I find it strange to admit to myself, I still love my country despite the horrors my government inflicted upon me and my family. I am so fortunate that both my children have grown up so relatively free of problems, and I truly want them to appreciate Argentina and her people the way I did when I was younger and more innocent.

I am so happy that I could write down my thoughts in this journal over the years. Perhaps one day, when I’m long gone, someone will read this and understand a little bit more about the experiences of those directly affected by those terrible years of 1976-83. Anyways, I should go: María baked me a cake earlier, and I can’t let those leftovers sit on the kitchen table for too long!

Manuel Pérez


1 thought on “May 5, 2005: Looking back

  1. ssvolk says:

    Feliz cumpleaños, Manuel. May you live to 120 and may we all live to see Argentina create a country worthy of her citizens like you. Thank you for sharing your life’s journey with me. I have learned much from what you have gone through.

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