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Vassar College

Publication Date

Fall 2007

Program Name

Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights


The last military dictatorship in Argentine history, from 1976 to 1983, implemented an institutionalized system of state terrorism that by the dictatorship’s end had permanently disappeared 30,000 of its citizens, as well as individuals from the rest of Latin America. The core of this system was the use of centros clandestinos de detención, tortura y extermino (clandestine centers of detention, torture and extermination) in which sequestered persons were tortured and then either disappeared or liberated. In the last few years, a movement has emerged to convert this former centers into espacios de la memoria (sites of memory). One such ex-center, “Olimpo” was declared a espacio de la memoria and La Mesa de Trabajo y Consenso (The Board of Work and Consensus), a commission organized by the state that includes representatives of multiple types of actors, is currently in the process of deciding the future functions of this space. This study seeks to investigate the nature of this process and the future of the space as a way of understanding what in reality constitutes a “site of memory” and the values of those involved. Memory in itself is a right; the ability to include one’s own memories in collective and public memory is a crucial right that represents an avenue through which individuals may have a voice in their nation. The creation of these “spaces of memory” demonstrates how the past marks places and people and provides an entry into understanding why some things we refuse to forget. This study was carried out by interviews with representatives of various types of actors that attend the Mesa, such as survivors of these ex-centers, neighbors of “Olimpo”, family members of the disappeared, and members of human rights organizations. Furthermore, it was developed by the attendance and observation of activities held in the space, as well as other former centers and/or “sites of memory”. The majority of the investigation was done at ex-center “Olimpo” in Floresta, a neighborhood of the city of Buenos Aires. This work provides a theoretical backdrop in the study of memory and spaces, before developing the history of the recuperation of the space, its current uses and the values put in play by the actors involved. The central emphases of the space, according to those actors, should be the activation of the space through activities that bring people in and help to create a wide dialog, which is crucial to the success of the recuperation of the site. Moreover, the space is believed to be primarily for the future generations so that they may understand this piece of the past.


Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change


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