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Published: October 23rd 2018
Pablo and guide sharing stories of The Disappeared
We are sitting in the Santiago, Chile airport looking at the snow caped Andes and waiting for the plane to Houston. And trying to think about how to wrap up this trip in words.
Our final day began at Finca Garciarena with a great breakfast including local fruits and home made pastries. Then we were notified that indeed Pablo had arranged a tour for us at the Museum of the Disappeared. We made our way to the metro police station where about half of the building was now given over to a tribute to the 600+ individuals that we "disappeared" from Mendoza alone during the late 1970s and early 80s. There were 10,000 dissents who vanished from Argentina during this period, with thousands more surviving when the junta was finally driven from office. (By the way, many of the police and military trained in the tactics of this were educated in the US by the CIA in the School of the Americas.)
The museum was a haunting visit. You enter and see the names and dates when each individual disappeared, including one as young as 15, one as old as 57, and even an American
student among them. Upstairs there is a display of posters with the faces of the disappeared, and then we visited the solitary confinement cells where we could trace the names of some of the prisoners who had etched their existence into the walls. Our last stop inside was to the room in the basement where they were taken to be tortured, electric shock, water boarding, beatings, all of it went on here. In a bit of poetic justice, the building where the memorial is is the place that was, in 1972-4 built for the police and military to use in these efforts. Today it houses records and the work of many to make sure everyone always remembers and never forgets, so that it will not happen again.
It took a while to recover, but we did make it back out to the DAD school to say some goodbyes to students and staff, and I met with the parents of a young woman who we hope to hosting in Amesville in the future.
Of course no trip to Mendoza is complete without bringing home some wine. So we then found a shop that would pack
our bottles for the plane ride home--and of course we had to buy a few more to fill out the boxes! If American Airlines breaks these babies they will hear about it.
As should be expected, we were treated to a fair well asado, complete with all the usual meats and vegetables--and an added surprise, home made deserts by many of the teachers we had worked with. There was one more treat--it just always seems to get better here--as the meal was ending and the toasts were done in walked Lisandro Binet, a well-known Argentine folk singer (he has toured in the US) and he spent nearly two hours singing to us, talking about each song, the history behind them. His song about fall in Argentina, while I could not understand it all, simply brought tears to my eyes.
So I will finish with one of his stories about one of the songs. In the battles with the Spanish for independent there was a drive by San Martin, the great leader of liberation, to cross the Andes. He needed supplies from Buneos Aires, over 500 miles away. Usually large ox carts made the trip,
90 days round trip, to take goods to the coast and bring imported things inland. San Martin needed weapons, supplies, etc. brought to him, but needed it in 45 days. Think, there were no roads, the shippers had to go through rivers, bandits, etc. All of them refused the job, except one. Given up for lost, he one day appeared, 47 days after setting out. San Martin, dressed as a peasant, greeted the drover, bowed before him and thanked him for his service, and asked what he owed him, what he should pay. The drover, the story goes, shook his head, and insisted, "There is no price for freedom, how about a hug?"
(One last note: I tried to post a video of the ballad about Mendoza but it is not supported by this platform..However, if you want, you can go to my Facebook pages where I put up a video earlier today. I have also added a few photos to this post that were not from the last day or so but felt they were too good not to share)
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