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University of Virginia

Publication Date

Spring 2010

Program Name

Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights


In any society, the level of political activism and participation is an important factor in the way the government and society functions. In Argentina, specifically, the issue of political activism is especially significant because of the form it took during the 1960s and 1970s and the consequences that followed. Modeled after Che Guevara’s conception of the “Hombre Nuevo” (New Man), the political activism of this period in Argentina formed as “militancia,” in which political actors took up the “lucha armada” (armed fight) in order to confront government repression. After years of conflict, social unrest and government failures, a civil-military dictatorship, led by Jorge Rafael Videla, came into power in 1976 with a goal to put a stop to popular resistance. The dictatorship quickly employed a strategy of State Terrorism, in which thousands of political dissidents (militantes) were sequestered and detained in prisons and clandestine centers where most were tortured and killed. Now the estimates of these “desaparecidos” (disappeared) are around 30,000. Those who survived, escaped, or were released began sharing their stories and demanding justice from exile and with the return of democracy in 1983. Still, the argentine society today, now under a stable democracy, remains active politically, frequently holding protests, marches, public events and rallies to accomplish their political goals. There are many militant organizations that have shaped their action upon the model of militancia from the sixties and seventies. So, the purpose of this investigation will be, what exactly does it mean to be a militant today in Argentine society? Taking into consideration the clear and forceful image of militancia from the sixties and seventies, the focus of this investigation will seek to find the concept of militancia today has been affected by the image of militancia from the time of the dictatorship. In answering these questions, the intent is to understand how intensely a distinct and powerful notion of political activism from the past can continue to shape and affect the same concept today. Using the examination of interviews with three women linked with militancia from both the previous era and today, we will attempt to form clear ideas of both their opinions on militancia and also how those opinions have been shaped by concepts of militancia from the past. The structure of the investigation will first outline methodological concepts on which the research will be conducted, noting the importance of a clear historical context and the methodology behind using oral histories to reach conclusions. Next will be development of theories on political activism, a historical review of the militancia and State Terrorism during the period of the 1960s and 1970s in Argentina, a presentation of the primary and secondary sources of information used in the investigation, and a brief look at basic definitions of “militancia.” The following section will present the three interviews, which will be analyzed through the contrast and comparison of their own experiences and opinions and also by comparing their stories with a seminar on militancia given by a former militante, a book on women who were detained in a clandestine center during the dictatorship, and the conception of Che Guevara’s “Hombre Nuevo”. The conclusion of the investigation will show that despite their differences between experience, circumstance, and background, the conceptions these women have of what it means to be a militant are strikingly similar, based almost completely on the form of militancia during the 1960s and 1970s, and also heavily influenced by Che Guevara’s concept of the “Hombre Nuevo”


Policy History, Theory, and Methods | Public Affairs


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