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  • "You Are Here"The DNA of Performance
  • Diana Taylor (bio)

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A bilingual sign shows the location of the Athletic Club, where thousands of people were disappeared. (Photo courtesy of Grupo Arte Callejero)

Buenos Aires, Argentina, 31 May 2000, 6:30 p.m. I'd been given a map and flier. Escrache al Plan Condor, organized by H.I.J.O.S.—the children of the disappeared. When I arrived, it was just getting dark. Young people had begun to converge on the designated street corner. I knew some of them: the members of H.I.J.O.S. who had invited me to participate, and young activists from Grupo Arte Callejero. The noise was revving up. A van, fitted with loudspeakers, blared rock music. Activists prepared their signs, placards, photographs, and banners. For all the motion and commotion, I felt haunted. These young people with their nouveau hippy chic—long hair, beards, Andean ponchos—took me back to the 1970s in Latin America. That's what I looked like back then. That's what their [End Page 149] parents—the generation of the disappeared—looked like. They too were activists—some involved in armed resistance movements, most committed to nonviolent social justice. Now, in the year 2000, a new generation of activists was taking to the streets of Buenos Aires—tonight to protest the hemispheric "Plan Condor" network organized by the CIA and implemented by the military dictatorships throughout Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s. This network assured that persecuted leftists were caught and "disappeared" even if they were lucky enough to escape their own country. In Argentina, these leftists were tortured in two garages, the Orletti and the Olimpo (among many other places), which functioned as concentration camps. Today, people take their cars there to be serviced, many of them oblivious to this history. H.I.J.O.S. was going to remind all who would listen about this criminal history through the escrache.

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J.O.S. join hands to protect against police intervention. (Photo by Diana Taylor)

The atmosphere was festive, but serious nonetheless. "Be careful," people warned each other. Infiltrators had been known to join escraches and start trouble to provoke police intervention. "Hold hands. Don't let anyone into the circle. Keep an eye on those next to you." The giant circle inched forward, our trajectory characterized by stops and starts as we moved together—dancing, shouting, singing—down the streets of Buenos Aires. The van, churning out the music and running commentary, slowly led the way. "Neighbors, listen up! Did you know that you live next to a concentration camp? While you were at home, cooking veal cutlets, people were being tortured in those camps." I looked up to see our audience—people on balconies, behind windows, looking down at the massive spectacle. Some waved. Others closed the curtains or retreated inside. Some must have joined the circle because there were more and more of us (plate 2). We kept going, first to Olimpo, where the police were waiting, lined up in front of the garage. Then, after writing the crimes committed there by the armed forces in yellow paint on the pavement in front of the block-long building, the group moved on to the Orletti. Again, the police were waiting, and again, H.I.J.O.S. covered the street with yellow paint (plate 3).

Marking the space was thrilling—members of H.I.J.O.S. and all those accompanying them started dancing and singing again. Individual members began addressing our group, talking about what the event meant to them. The trauma was palpable, the emotional power contagious, and the sense of political empowerment energizing. Even I, a foreigner with little personal relationship to the context, felt renewed hope and resolve. I had returned to Argentina with a sense of loss—the Madres were getting older. Although they continue [End Page 150] their weekly march around the Plaza de Mayo, I wondered how the human rights movement would survive their demise. But here were H.I.J.O.S.—young, joyful, and determined to carry...


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