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Memories of Buenos Aires

Signs of State Terrorism in Argentina

edited with an introduction by Max Page epilogue by Ilan Stavans

Publication Year: 2013

In the 1970s, Argentina was the leader in the “Dirty War,” a violent campaign by authoritarian South American regimes to repress left-wing groups and any others who were deemed subversive. Over the course of a decade, Argentina’s military rulers tortured and murdered upwards of 30,000 citizens. Even today, after thirty years of democratic rule, the horror of that time continues to roil Argentine society. Argentina has also been in the vanguard in determining how to preserve sites of torture, how to remember the “disappeared,” and how to reflect on the causes of the Dirty War. Across the capital city of Buenos Aires are hundreds of grassroots memorials to the victims, documenting the scope of the state’s reign of terror. Although many books have been written about this era in Argentina’s history, the original Spanish-language edition of Memories of Buenos Aires was the first to identify and interpret all of these sites. It was published by the human rights organization Memoria Abierta, which used interviews with survivors to help unearth that painful history. This translation brings this important work to an English-speaking audience, offering a comprehensive guidebook to clandestine sites of horror as well as innovative sites of memory. The book divides the 48 districts of the city into 9 sectors, and then proceeds neighborhood-by-neighborhood to offer descriptions of 202 known “sites of state terrorism” and 38 additional places where people were illegally detained, tortured, and killed by the government.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-x

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Introduction to the English-Language Edition

Max Page

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pp. xi-xvi

The former torture centers of Buenos Aires display a rarefied elegance. Old military schools, rusticated neoclassical police stations, Gothic churches, Frenchinspired mansions, Spanish colonial estancias: state terrorism in the 1970s took place in the aged splendor of what is often called the “Paris of South America.” ...

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Introduction

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pp. xvii-xxii

This book offers the reader a set of entry points through which to explore the city of Buenos Aires in a reflective manner, whether as a full-time resident or as a visitor. We are forced to live in a present moment drained of history as we move through our daily trips to work and school, our weekend itineraries, and the routes set by shopping malls and cultural centers, and that same forgetful impulse is rapidly stripping places of their historical and social reality...

How to Use this Book

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

Sector 1. Montserrat, Puerto Madero, Retiro, and San Nicholás

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1. Plaza de Mayo

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pp. 3-16

The Plaza de Mayo is the public space par excellence in which Argentina’s collective memories, conflicts, and disputes all converge. In the midst of the military dictatorship, the mothers of the disappeared defied the dictates of state terrorism and took over...

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2. Coordinación Federal

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pp. 17-24

Coordinación Federal, one of the largest Clandestine Detention Centers (CDCs), operated in the building of what is today the Bureau of the Interior and Federal Crimes (Superintendencia de Interior y Delitos Federales). It functioned as a temporary detention center...

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3. Chapel of Christ the Laborer – Father Carlos Mugica

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pp. 25-28

The “shantytown priest” Carlos Mujica Echague made a radical commitment to working with the poor even though he had been born into an upper-class Buenos Aires family. Mujica was born on October 7, 1930. His father Adolfo Mugica was a Conservative party congressman and...

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4. Azopardo Garage

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pp. 29-30

“What is a disappeared person? As long as he remains disappeared, he is an unknown quantity. If he were to reappear, he might be treated in one way. If the disappearance were to be confirmed by death...

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5. Mercedes Benz

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pp. 31-35

“The Command Unit of Zone 1 wishes to inform the public that on the night of November 2, in the vicinity of the Plaza Constitución, a patrol of loyal forces surprised an activist who was inciting workers to halt their activities and attempting to prevent some factory workers from going to...

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6. Virrey Cevallos

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pp. 36-37

Miriam Lewin was nineteen years old when the Air Force Intelligence Services kidnapped her as she was leaving the factory where she worked in Lomas del Mirador. She was disappeared and detained in the Clandestine Detention Center...

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7. Disappeared Port Workers

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pp. 38-39

A plaque was dedicated on April 30, 2004 in the small square at the intersection of Azucena Villaflor Boulevard (see “Plaza de Mayo,” p. 3) and Juana Manso Street to honor disappeared workers from the Port of Buenos...

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8. Federal Police Headquarters

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pp. 40-42

The municipal office located in the Federal Police Headquarters operated as a secret detention site during the dictatorship, just one block away from the Clandestine Detention Center known as Coordinación Federal (see p. 17)...

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9. Buenos Aires National School

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pp. 43-46

Eduardo Blaustein went to school on August 23, 1974, as he did every day. He was sixteen years old and in his fourth year of high school at the Buenos Aires National School. He saw a dead body for the first time in his life that day. It was the body of one of his fellow students, ...

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10. Prison Ships: Bahía Aguirre and 33 Orientales

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pp. 47-

During the last dictatorship several ships were used as prisons and as Clandestine Detention Centers (CDCs). Testimonies exist relating to the following ships: the Muratore, the Ciudad de la Plata, the Bahía Aguirre, and the 33 Orientales...

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11. Héctor Germán Oesterheld

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pp. 48-50

In 1991 a scene from the famous Argentine science fiction comic El eternauta was re-created to decorate the Uruguay subway station on the city’s B line. A large ceramic mural along the station’s platform wall depicts scenes by two of the comic’s illustrators, Alberto Breccia and Solano López...

12-36

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pp. 51-58

Sector 2. Palermo and Recoleta

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37. Carlos Pellegrini Advanced School of Commerce

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pp. 61-65

Over a thousand people crowded into the patio of the school during an unveiling ceremony that revealed a plaque bearing the names of the thirty-four students and two teachers detained and disappeared during the last dictatorship...

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38. Plaza Houssay

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pp. 66-68

A memorial set up in Plaza Houssay in December 2007 pays tribute to the students, teachers, and staff of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and to the staff of the José de San Martín Clinical Hospital who were victims of detention...

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39. The Applause (El aplauso): Sculpture Dedicated to Disappeared Actors

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pp. 69-71

Mariana Gabor’s sculpture The Applause (El aplauso) was inaugurated above the entrance to the headquarters of the Antonio Cunill Cabanellas Department of Dramatic Arts to remember the actors disappeared by the last military dictatorship...

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40. Plaque in the SICA

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pp. 72-73

Argentine cinema experienced a boom during the last dictatorship. On the one hand, the military government gave political and economic backing to certain kinds of films. On the other, it imposed extreme censorship, promoted “black lists,” and persecuted producers and actors with...

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41. Patricios First Infantry Regiment

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pp. 74-76

The Patricios First Infantry Regiment functioned as the First Army Corps headquarters during the dictatorship. A Clandestine Detention Center also operated there from 1976 to 1977. Although not all witnesses agree as to the precise location of the center...

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42. Dr. Cosme Argerich Central Military Hospital

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pp. 77-79

After being housed in a series of different buildings, the Central Military Hospital was inaugurated in the neighborhood of Palermo in September 1939. It began functioning as a clandestine maternity clinic soon after the coup of 1976 and became...

43-63

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pp. 80-86

Sector 3. Almagro, Balvanera, Boedo, and San Cristobal

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64. Santa Cruz Church

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pp. 89-92

The Gothic-style Santa Cruz Church is located at 3150 Estados Unidos Street on a property granted to the Passionist Community in 1881. The church, inaugurated in 1894, was a meeting place for members of the Irish community and other residents...

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65. Trees in Avenida San Juan

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pp. 93-95

Seventy-eight trees planted along more than twenty blocks of Avenida San Juan honor the disappeared of the neighborhood of San Cristóbal. Each jacaranda tree pays tribute to a person who lived, was politically active, or was kidnapped in the neighborhood...

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66. Corner of San Juan and Entre Ríos

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pp. 96-98

Rodolfo Walsh, a writer, journalist, and activist in the armed political movement known as the Montoneros*, was murdered on March 25, 1977, at the corner of Avenida San Juan and Avenida Entre Ríos by a Special Task Group* from the Navy School of Mechanics* (ESMA, Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada; see...

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67. Small Squares (Plazoletas) – 25 de Mayo Freeway

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pp. 99-104

Nine disappeared members of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo were honored in October 2003, when the Buenos Aires City Council decided to name a series of residual green spaces from the 25 de Mayo Freeway after them. Today these sites, which...

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68. Tribute to Jorge Julio López in the Miramar Bar

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pp. 105-108

On March 19, 2007, the association San Cristobal Residents Against Impunity (Vecinos de San Cristóbal contra la Impunidad) placed a ceramic plaque to honor Jorge Julio López and demand that he be found alive. The tile work was erected on the facade...

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69. Abrazo (The Hug). Sculpture in the ATE

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pp. 109-110

This sculpture was inaugurated in the headquarters of the Association of State Employees (ATE, Asociación de Trabajadores del Estado) twenty years after the last military coup to remember the 144 disappeared members of this union...

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70. Plaza Julio César Fumarola

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pp. 111-113

A group of residents managed to convert a vacant lot in the neighborhood into a public square for the community. This space, which had lain abandoned for years, was temporarily named “La plaza del mientras tanto”...

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71. Mural in the National Congress

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pp. 114-

“Where are you, Daddy?” With this question Carolina López Forastier expressed how much she had missed her father as a little girl after his arrest early in the morning of March 26, 1976. The artist Mónica Corrales used her words as inspiration for the mural...

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72. José María Ramos Mejía Hospital

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pp. 115-116

Nine plaques pay tribute to workers from the Ramos Mejía Hospital who were detained and disappeared. One was dedicated by the Buenos Aires City Council, another by the hospital’s union committee, ...

73-110

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pp. 117-126

Sector 4. Constitución, Barracas, La Boca, Parque Patricios, Nueva Pompeya, and San Telmo

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111. Club Atlético

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pp. 129-131

The Clandestine Detention Center known as the Club Atlético operated between February and December 1977 in the specially prepared basement of a three-story building on Avenida Paseo Colón, between San...

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112. Murals in La Boca

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pp. 132-133

In 2007 a mural titled Juicio y Castigo (Judgment and punishment) was unveiled at 300 Suárez Street to pay tribute to the thirty-year struggle of the Founding Line of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo (see “Plaza de Mayo,”...

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113. Former Prison Unit 1 in Caseros

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pp. 134-137

Dictator Jorge Rafael Videla inaugurated the Caseros Prison on April 23, 1979, in the neighborhood of Parque Patricios. Like many other prisons in the country, it housed large numbers of political prisoners during the...

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114. Plaza Obispo Enrique Angelelli

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pp. 138-141

“I come not to be served, but to serve. To serve everyone without distinction, regardless of social class, way of thinking, or beliefs; just like Jesus, I want to serve our brothers the poor.” With these words...

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115. Central Aeronautical Hospital

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pp. 142-144

The terrorist state’s repression operated mainly through the practices of forced disappearance and the theft of babies. It depended on coordination between different jurisdictions and institutions, each fulfilling a specific function...

116-130

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pp. 145-150

Sector 5. Belgrano, Coghlan, Colegiales, Núñez, and Saavedra

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131. Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA)

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pp. 153-161

The ESMA (Argentine Navy School of Mechanics), one of Argentina’s largest Clandestine Detention Centers (CDCs), is located on Avenida del Libertador near the riverfront on the north side of...

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132. Park of Memory

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pp. 162-165

The Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism was inaugurated in the Parque de la Memoria (Park of Memory) on November 7, 2007. Hundreds of people in attendance walked together around its four...

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133. Ricardo Marcos Zucker Jr. Grandstand

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pp. 166-167

The grandstand known as La Techada is reserved for fans of the Defensores de Belgrano soccer club and is also a commemorative site dedicated to a loyal “Defe” fan who was disappeared during the last military...

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134. Miguel Sánchez Sports Track

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pp. 168-169

Runner Miguel Sánchez was among the athletes disappeared during the last military dictatorship. The annual Miguel Races honor his memory in different cities in Argentina (Buenos Aires, San Miguel de Tucumán...

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135. Mothers of the White Scarf Plaza

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pp. 170-171

In 1996 a group of residents from the neighborhood of Saavedra took over the empty space left by the abandoned Highway 3 project and transformed it into a plaza using all recycled materials...

136-141

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pp. 172-174

Sector 6. Agronomía, Chacarita, Parque Chas, Paternal, Villa Crespo, Villa Pueyrredón, Villa Ortuzar, and Villa Urquiza

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142. San Patricio Church – Pallottine Martyrs’ Passage

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pp. 177-181

San Patricio Church contains a monument honoring the Pallottine Martyrs, five members of the Pallottine Society who were murdered by the dictatorship on July 4, 1976. The sculpture, completed in September 2005, is titled...

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143. Roberto Santoro Cultural Center

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pp. 182-183

“The president . . . speaks of freedom and democracy. . . . They are distributing leaflets about preventing subversive activities in the schools. The president says he rejects an indulgent press. The Ford factory in Pacheco, which employs 4,800 workers...

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144. Faculty of Agronomy and Agronomía Neighborhood

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pp. 184-185

The University of Buenos Aires Faculty of Agronomy is located on thirty hectares within Buenos Aires city limits, adjacent to the residential neighborhood known as Agronomía...

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145. Nunca Más Square and Cultural Center

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pp. 186-189

In March 2002 the residents of Villa Pueyrredón designated the area next to Pueyrredón Station (on the Mitre rail line), at the intersection of Cabezón and Bolivia Streets, as Nunca Más Square....

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146. Grafa Murals

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pp. 190-192

On October 23, 2000, forty-eight murals were inaugurated in the neighborhood of Villa Pueyrredón to commemorate the Grafa factory’s importance to the neighborhood’s development...

147-160

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pp. 193-196

Sector 7. Monte Castro, Villa del Parque, Villa Devoto, Villa General Mitre, Villa Real, and Villa Santa Rita

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161. Female Political Prisoners in Devoto Prison

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pp. 199-203

The number of political prisoners in the Devoto Prison doubled after the military coup of 1976, and abuse inside the prison increased. By the middle of that year roughly three hundred prisoners were being held there for political reasons...

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162. Disappeared Teachers Remembered in their Schools

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pp. 204-208

Buenos Aires City Council passed a law in 2001 that committed the city government to compiling a list of all the students, teachers, and educational staff from every education level who were victims of state terror...

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163. Mural in the Argentinos Juniors Soccer Field

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pp. 209-210

"We at Argentinos Juniors believe that our participation in this event is very important because those of us involved in sport, and especially soccer, are deeply indebted to Argentine society. Sport was used to whitewash the image of the military dictatorship...

164-165

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pp. 211-212

Sector 8. Caballito, Flores, Floresta, Parque Chacabuco, and Vélez Sarsfield

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166. El Olimpo

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pp. 215-219

“Welcome to the Olympus of the gods,” announced the mural that greeted prisoners when they arrived at the torture chamber, which was known as the “operating room” (quirófano). The Clandestine Detention Center known...

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167. Automotores Orletti

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pp. 220-223

Operation Condor, the plan that coordinated the repressive efforts of several South American dictatorships, was run out of an innocent-looking location: a car repair shop. Some three hundred people are estimated to have passed through this building...

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168. Doctor Dámaso Centeno Military Social Institute

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pp. 224-225

Former students of the Doctor Dámaso Military Social Institute held a ceremony on October 11, 2006, to unveil a plaque to remember detained and disappeared students from the school. Located in the neighborhood of Caballito, the institute is run by the Army, and the tribute...

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169. House on Franklin Street

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pp. 226-227

The house located at 943 Franklin Street, which operated as a Clandestine Detention Center during the dictatorship, looks dazzling today, renovated and freshly painted. Sergio Bufano, detained in this house in July 1976, remembers it instead as “an old, dilapidated house” [AO.0067]...

170-183

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pp. 228-232

Sector 9. Liniers, Mataderos, Parque Avellaneda, Versailles, Villa Lugano, Villa Luro, Villa Riachuelo, and Villa Soldati

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184. Human Rights Walk

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pp. 235-237

“Where should we put the flowers?” asked Vera Jarach at the inauguration of the Paseo de los Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Walk). “We’ve thrown them into the river so many times. This place is going to bring together many generations for a long...

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185. Mayor Bernardo Alberte Flowerbeds

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pp. 238-239

Remembered as the first victim of the military coup, Major Alberte was a Peronist political activist for more than thirty years. His son Bernardo remembers how he was murdered: “Just minutes after 2:00 a.m. on March 24, 1976, Federal Police...

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186. Julio Troxler Street

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pp. 240-242

A street in the neighborhood of Villa Soldati was named “Julio Troxler” in memory of this Peronist political activist murdered by the Triple A* (Argentine Anticommunist Alliance). In October 1997, an ordinance passed by what was then the Deliberative...

187-203

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pp. 243-248

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Epilogue: Via Dolorosa

Ilan Stavans

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pp. 249-254

I’m ambivalent about memorials, such as the one in New York City dedicated to the victims of September 11, 2001. I recognize the psychological role they play. And I’m aware of the societal duty to remember a cathartic event of the past. The question for me is how to use that past. That it is usable I have no doubt. But what kinds of uses should one draw from it? ...

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Police Stations as Sites of Illegal Detention

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pp. 255-260

Twenty-five of the fifty-two police stations in Buenos Aires have been identified as sites of illegal detention during the last dictatorship. According to testimonials, many victims of political persecution were taken directly to one of these police stations after their kidnapping. Police facilities functioned as sites of illegal detention...

Glossary

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pp. 261-268

Abbreviations

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pp. 269-270

Works Cited

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pp. 271-274

Acknowledgments

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pp. 275-

References

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pp. 276-280

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613762677
E-ISBN-10: 1613762674
Print-ISBN-13: 9781625340108
Print-ISBN-10: 1625340109

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 328 color illus, 62 maps
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Public History in Historical Perspective
Series Editor Byline: Marla Miller

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • State-sponsored terrorism -- Argentina -- Buenos Aires -- History -- 20th century.
  • Buenos Aires (Argentina) -- Guidebooks.
  • Disappeared persons -- Monuments -- Argentina -- Buenos Aires -- Guidebooks.
  • Victims of state-sponsored terrorism -- Monuments -- Argentina -- Buenos Aires -- Guidebooks.
  • Memorials -- Argentina -- Buenos Aires -- Guidebooks.
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