Alysia Mann Carey, PhD Student, Political Science
“To be a mother is a gift from God. A child is inside you and there is pain when they are born, but you are happy and you kiss their arms and legs. But when this happens, when you lose your child in such a tragic way, it is a pain and sadness that is unexplainable. You carry it with you. And more so when it is like my case, or Ana’s case, which is about a people and about security and those people that are supposed to give security are creating more misery and death for human beings, it is hard. When I heard pa-pa-pa-pa I looked around for my son. Where is My Son! It was then that I felt the hand of the government in my womb. And it is still there.” (Dona. Santana, Mother of one of the victims/Militant—React or Die! Campaign)
“The pilgrimage from the Police Station-Hospital-morgue, or Police Station-Hospital-morgue-Child and Adolescent Foundation (FUNDAC), or Police Station-Hospital-Morgue-Cemetery, has been the routine for Black families headed by Black women.” (Andreia Beatriz dos Santos, Coordinator/Militant—React or Die! Campaign)
The above quotes from Dona. Santana (pseudonym), a mother-activist who lost her son in what has come to be known as the Cabula Massacre, and Andreia Beatriz, coordinator/militant for the React or Die Campaign, represent important starting points for theorizing state violence against Black women. This is a theme that my research directly engages. Both of these women’s narratives demonstrate that state violence penetrates intimate spaces for Black women: the body (through the womb, through the cries over the death of a child, through walking to and from various sites that signify death and violence) and the family (through no longer being able to mother a child, or young children growing up without a loved one). It is in this context that my research takes a Black feminist approach (i.) to understanding how state violence impacts Black women in intimate ways. Thus, using ethnographic approaches, I examine how Black women describe, understand, and navigate state violence, and other forms of violence in their daily lives. Further, I investigate how Black women also lead movements that connect and confront different forms of violence in their lives and communities.
Five months after the Cabula massacre, I traveled to Salvador, Bahia for the second time to conduct pre-dissertation fieldwork in June 2015. During this time, I met with organizers from the React or Die Campaign as well as the mothers or partners of those who were killed in the massacre. On Friday, February 6, 2015 military police officers from RONDESP (Special Military Operations Forces (ii) raided the working class, majority Black neighborhood of Cabula in Salvador, Bahia in Brazil. The officers maintained that they entered into a gun battle with 30 men who were hoarding arms and criminal paraphernalia. However, witnesses claimed that they were unarmed. In the end, police killed 12 Black boys and young men between the ages of 16 and 27. A separate investigation found that the police entered the community, rounded up the boys on a small plot of land, used as a soccer field by neighborhood youth, and executed them one by one (iii).
On Monday, August 24, 2015, React or Die held its 3rd Annual (Inter)National March against the Genocide of Black People. The March represented a culmination of yearlong organizing efforts, community work, and familial support for victims killed by state violence. The march was scheduled to commence in front of the Public Security Building downtown, but early on that Monday morning, around 9 a.m. I watched over 200 people gather outside of the State University of Bahia, located in Cabula. Organizers, supporters, mothers, family members, and loved ones were to walk through the streets of Cabula, to the community of Villa Moisés, where a memorial service was held for the victims of the Cabula Massacre, on the very plot of land that their lives were taken.
Preparations for the memorial stone in Villa Moisés, August 24, 2015. Activists from the React or Die Campaign took these photos. I was given permission to include them in this blog post.
Forming two lines, organizers, mothers, friends, and other family members walked through the street chanting, “Against the Genocide of Black People, no step back” and “We want Justice.” Upon arrival in Villa Moisés, we stopped just before descending into the community. Around us, there were many two-story townhome-like structures. Hearing the chants for Black life and the demands for justice, an older woman came out and stood on her patio, looking over the rail. At that time, one of the coordinators of the React or Die Campaign took the megaphone to greet the community members: “Good Morning Villa Moisés. We are here in memory of the dead. We are marching today for our lives. Villa Moisés will not be forgotten.” The woman who stood out on her patio responded by raising her fist in support, giving us a blessing to enter.
The procession proceeded down into Villa Moisés. Upon arriving at the site where the 12 boys and young men were killed, four straight lines were formed. Mothers, sisters, aunts, fathers, supporters, organizers came to the front to present themselves and to speak the names of those killed. After each person was named the galera (crowd) in unison yelled “presente (present):”
Ricardo Matos, Presente! Júnior, Presente! Anjos, Presente! Adailton, Presente! Alessandra, Presente ! Fatima, Presente! Amarildo, Presente! Maria Vitoria, Presente!
One by one, family members, mothers, partners spoke up about their fight
“As we gather, we encounter our force, our power, our ability to live. We have become the voices for our sons and daughters, and we won’t allow the continued murder of young Blacks to destroy our lives. Their blood is not so cheap that we allow their murders.”
“We cannot go one step back! We can’t let this tragedy continue. Every single day, we encounter another mother grieving, another body laying dead in the street — we will not let this happen any longer. We have to fight, we have to react…While there is even one little voice screaming deep down there, in the end, that voice will be representing all of our dead.“ (Ana Paula)
The words of Ana Paula resonated with me, and reminded me of the first time I read Audre Lorde’s poem “A Litany of Survival” in Lyndon Gill’s course on Erotic Subjectivities. As a Black Caribbean Feminist, Lorde tells Black women throughout the diaspora that we must speak, “remembering we were never meant to survive.” The words of Ana Paula and Audre Lorde speak to the transnational dimension of Black women’s power: Ana Paula’s words were a response to the poem, a continuation of a conversation across space and time. Andreia echoed the same conversation: “Our pain is transnational. Our fight is transnational…Joquielson, Presente! Jonathan, Presente! Rakia Boyd, Presente! Tony Robinson, Presente! Aiyana Jones, Presente! Everson, Presente! Kaique, Presente! Sandra Bland, Presente! Jackson Cavalho, Presente! Trayvon Martin, Presente! Mike Brown, Presente!”
The mothers and family members who spoke are experts in their own right—they have searched for children when they were disappeared, unidentified in city morgues, or located in clandestine graves in the outskirts of the city. These Black mother activists vocalized their criticisms of governmental impunity and necropolitics throughout Brazil. They exposed the particular experiences of Black mothers, a theme explored in the literature on gendered racial violence in the Americas (v.).
For me, it became clear that even in the face of government indifference and attacks, these women created a network of support and autonomous organizing, creating a grassroots organization fighting against a genocidal state responsible for the deaths of their children and thousands of others. At the end of the memorial, people gathered around a plaque in memory of victims of state violence. The memorial stone read “’We continue to live and fight for Black people in the diaspora’ Campaign React or Die!” This inscription reminded me of Patricia Hill Collins’ words: “motherhood can serve as a site where Black women express and learn the power of self-definition, the importance of valuing and respecting [themselves], the necessity of self-reliance and independence, and a belief in Black women’s empowerment.” (vi).
As the memorial came to an end, everyone walked to Engomadeira, a nearby community where some of the surviving family members of the Cabula massacre lived, to have lunch. Around two o’clock in the afternoon, we made our way to the headquarters of the Military Police, where the march itself would commence. More than 5,000 people gathered on the street. The march would end outside of the Office of the Secretary of Public Security for the State of Bahia. The beginning and end of this march were significant for many reasons. The women of Reaja directly confronted the state and the “official story,” not only of Cabula, but of other cases of anti-Black violence across Brazil, and throughout the African diaspora. Their physical presence in front of the Military Police Headquarters and the Public Security office was a practice of unveiling the intimate violence and suffering perpetrated against them, their families, their sisters, and their communities. Their presence highlights the central place that Black women occupy in the history of organizing, (vii.) making visible the pain, suffering, and violence that the state, reporting, and news media ridiculed and made to be a spectacle. Mothers were holding large signs depicting their slain children. Women spoke the names that the state tried to erase. Shouts erupted from the crowd, such as “They try to deny our humanity,” and “the dead too have a voice.”
Mothers marching in front of the Military Police Headquarters, August 24, 2015
Just like the land upon which the young people were killed in Cabula, the streets in front of the buildings were transformed into spaces of resistance against genocide. Through occupation of the streets, the courtrooms, government offices, Black women disrupted these spaces, reconfiguring them as sites for collective grieving. Their activism disrupts a narrative of “what (whose) life is worth, a narrative that says that Black life is worth less and that life itself can be valued based on race, economic status, gender, etc. (viii.) During the memorial ceremony, one of the family members said, “Their blood is not so cheap that we allow their murders.” “As we gather, we encounter our force, our power, our ability to live.” The acts of re-membering their loved ones, collective grieving and making public the pain and suffering at the hands of the state, provide a language (whether verbal, emotional, or embodied) for these women to articulate their experiences and to take political action. Organizing, activism, re/memory and grief are engaged as central, pivotal, and diasporic sites for theorizing Black politics and liberation (ix.).
i. This approach draws on and contributes to scholarship that situates Black women’s organizing as key sites for the production of theory and knowledge. See for example, Cardoso, Cláudia Pons. “Amefricanizando o feminismo: o pensamento de Lélia Gonzalez.” Revista Estudos Feministas 22, no. 3 (2014): 965-986; Perry, Keisha-Khan Y. Black Women against the Land Grab. University of Minnesota Press, 2013; Smith, Christen A. “Facing the Dragon: Black Mothering, Sequelae, and Gendered Necropolitics in the Americas.” Transforming Anthropology 24, no. 1 (2016): 31-48; Collective, Combahee River. ‘A Black Feminist Statement’. na, 1982.
ii. Similar to S.W.A.T in the US.
iii. Data released by the prosecutors in an interview to the press, published on May 12, 2015. (http://www.correio24horas.com.br/detalhe/noticia/morte-de-12-homens-no-cabula-foi-execucao-diz-mp-policiais-serao-denunciados/?cHash=9cc0567b569bdbe83b2aa06242ec07f5). Also see http://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2015/05/18/politica/1431971338_499756.html; According to Bahia’s Government article (http://www.secom.ba.gov.br/2015/07/126443/Caso-Cabula-inquerito-conclui-que-PMs-agiram-em-legitima-defesa.html) Information released exclusively by El Pais newspaper (http://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2015/07/25/politica/1437834347_077854.html)
iv. Activists from the React or Die Campaign took these photos. I was given permission to include them in this blog post.
v. Perry, Keisha-Khan Y. Black Women against the Land Grab; Smith, Christen A. “Facing the Dragon; Rocha, Luciane de Oliveira. “Outraged mothering: black women, racial violence, and the power of emotions in Rio de Janeiro’s African Diaspora.” PhD diss., 2014; Rocha, Luciane de Oliveira. “Black mothers’ experiences of violence in Rio de Janeiro.” Cultural Dynamics 24, no. 1 (2012): 59-73; Smith, Christen A. Afro-Paradise: Blackness, Violence, and Performance in Brazil. University of Illinois Press, 2016.; Also see the Transforming Anthropology special edition (24, no. 1) “Sorrow as Artifact: Radical Black Mothering in Times of Terror.
vi. Collins, Patricia Hill. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Routledge, 2002.
vii. James, Joy. Shadowboxing: Representations of Black feminist politics. St. Martin’s Press, 1999; Perry, Keisha-Khan Y. Black Women against the Land Grab;
viii. Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. “We Can Learn to Mother Ourselves: The Queer Survival of Black Feminism 1968-1996.” PhD diss., Duke University, 2010, 50
ix. Cardoso, Cláudia Pons. Amefricanizando o feminismo; Perry, Keisha-Khan Y. Black Women against the Land Grab; Smith, Christen A. “Facing the Dragon; Collective, Combahee River. ‘A Black Feminist Statement’; Rocha, Luciane de Oliveira. “Outraged mothering”
On May 25, CLAS will cosponsor “Grief as Resistance: Racialized State Violence and the Politics of Black Motherhood in the Americas,” a transnational conversation with Black mothers who have lost children to state violence. Mother-activists from the US, Brazil, and Colombia share their struggles and strategies of resistance against police violence, mass incarceration, and the unrelenting injustices facing Black communities around the world.
For more information please visit: http://events.uchicago.edu/cal/event/showEventMore.rdo
The contents of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Latin American Studies or the University of Chicago.
Erin McFee, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Comparative Human Development
Negotiators in Havana, Cuba ready their pens to sign a peace accord between the government of Colombia and the guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which would end more than 50 years of war. More than 1,500 miles away, the Colombian department of Caquetá begins at the foot of the Western Andean mountains, where the jagged verdant peaks increasingly give way to rolling hills, vast expanses of cultivated land, and, eventually, dense Amazonian selva. Caquetá figures critically for post-conflict planners: it has suffered comparatively greater levels of violence and vulnerability than other areas of the country; it has a historically marginalized large rural population; it hosted part of the violently disastrous Zone of Distention between 1998–2002, in which the FARC took advantage of peace negotiations in order to regroup, terrorizing the civilian population in the process; and it will serve as one of seven Zones of Concentration for the eventual FARC demobilization.
Against the juxtaposed backdrop of dream-like landscapes and profound loss, a growing variety of community interventions attempt to make sense of suffering and contribute to sustainable peace over the long term. One such intervention includes a joint project between the Pastoral Social (community outreach team from the Catholic Church) and ACNUR (United Nations Refugee Agency), in which a team of five individuals—two psychologists, two anthropologists, and one lawyer—work with five communities displaced by conflict violence in Caquetá in order to realize collective reparations processes.
In early March, three members of the Pastoral Social set out to visit one of the participating communities: Roncesvalles.
Or was it Roncervalles?
No one is actually sure. Each person—including the community members themselves —remains more certain than the last that their spelling is, in fact, the correct one. The formal project proposal spells it with both the “r” and “s” throughout.
Orthographic concerns aside, Ronce/r/svalles comprises 55 families forcibly displaced by violence and relocated by the state to their current community, half of which floods in the event of heavy rains. The families did not know one another before they settled the partially soggy tract of land. This unfamiliarity, and the clear value differences between the two sections of the community, has resulted in significant tensions, which the project hopes to ameliorate through shared efforts to petition the state to repair the bridge leading to the community. This project was the order of the day for the Pastoral Social visit.
After half an hour on the main highway heading northeast out of Florencia (the department’s capital city, home to 140,000 persons), the branded ACNUR off-road vehicle turned into the entrance of Larandia military base. The army purchased the 3,375-hectare behemoth in 1965 in order to combat guerrilla threats in the region, and the massive training facility marked the beginning of the road to Ronce/r/svalles. In order to reach this community of many possible names, one must pass through the entirety of Larandia—including its three military checkpoints—enter the vehicle information in an Army registry, and return before six o’clock in the evening, when the checkpoint gates close for the day. Despite the official ACNUR vehicle status, branded with Agency logos and clear “No Weapons” decals, soldiers at each checkpoint questioned increasingly annoyed occupants as to their purpose, their number, and whether or not they were transporting weapons and/or hidden persons. Upon exiting the base, the pavement slowly deteriorated into the cratered single-lane roads shared with livestock, horses, and their owners, which mark most of the department’s more rural enclaves.
The team bounced along, silent due to difficulties maintaining conversation on such uneven terrain, and windows rolled up to avoid the dust swirling up from the little-used road. Half an hour later, the petite elderly woman who served as the group’s capable chauffeur, stretched up to look over the steering wheel as she slowed to veer around a group of three unexpected men: scouts for an international petroleum company running tests to look for oil. They rubbed the sweat off their faces with their branded denim long-sleeve shirts, and managed a wave, squinting out from under the shadows of their protective plastic helmets.
Closer to the community, the vehicle slowed in order to pass the children beginning the hour and a half walk home from the closest school, which just this year lost its budget for snacks, signifying a 8–9 hour stretch each day without food. One young boy, perhaps 12 years old, undertook the journey on the back of a cow whose skeleton stretched through the tufted hide. Judging by the passenger’s peals of laughter and teasing classmates, the transport was more for show than necessity.
The team arrived at the shared meeting space in the middle of the grass field, similar to those that mark the centers of most small rural communities in the region, and greeted one of the elderly community leaders.
“Another day with hunger,” he replied. “But we have to move forward,” he added in the silence that followed his initial response, filling in the transition with hearty laughter, and gesturing to the team with a smile and an outstretched arm to enter the meeting space.
After roughly an hour of calls to community leaders who had forgotten about the meeting—calls made by walking around the grass field until one bar of cell signal appeared—chit-chat about the state of relations between the two parts of the community, excuses given for absences, and the arrival of new unexpected faces, all present began to get down to business. Over the next two hours participants sketched out how they would mobilize to petition various government agencies to meet state obligations of collective reparations to the community as part of the long process of building peace after war.
While one community does not a country make, the road to Ronce/r/svalles certainly illustrates the many challenges that Colombia faces with building a post-peace accord society in the most conflict-affected regions of the country. First, re-victimization of those who have suffered greatly at the hands of all varieties of armed actors is not uncommon through poorly managed victims’ reparations processes (e.g., relocation to sites that flood). Second, competing and often urgent needs among different kinds of victims, as well as particularities in each case of victimization, undermine both large-scale collective action and small scale quotidian life (e.g., communities divided into factions, fighting over limited resources). Third, tense and, frankly, often bizarre relations with the state—e.g., having to pass through a military base to arrive at a community—stymie governmental attempts to build trust and provide services to those affected by the armed conflict. Rampant local corruption poisons whatever good-faith efforts emerge and land titling remains cripplingly contentious. Fourth, international oil and mining interests exploit the poorly-regulated lands and the often vulnerable—though by no means powerless—people who occupy them (e.g., speculators such as those encountered on the road). And fifth, organizing communities at the margins of sociopolitical, economic, and even geographic life is profoundly complicated for many reasons. These reasons include, though are certainly not limited to, long histories of exploitation at the hands of outsiders and damaging failures in basic domains of public life, such as education and public health. In the midst of it all, more and more domestic and international interventions have begun to crowd the landscape, navigating both the literal and metaphorical hostile terrain. And in the many inevitable successes and failures to follow, we will better understand the stakes of life in transition for those in regions such as Caquetá, Colombia.
The contents of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Latin American Studies or the University of Chicago.
Pablo Palomino, Postdoctoral Lecturer, Center for Latin American Studies/History
This past March 24 marked the 40th anniversary of the coup d’état of 1976, providing, like every March 24, an opportunity for Argentina to re-elaborate the links between past and present. Too somber and fateful was that March 24, 1976, that changed the course of Argentine history irremediably. And history was very much alive this time, due to three converging circumstances.
The first is Argentina’s judiciary progress over the past decade regarding the violations of human rights during the State Terrorism of 1976–1983. More than 600 perpetrators of violations to human rights, mostly members of the military and other armed agencies, were condemned by federal courts to sentences ranging from less than three years to life sentences. (Another 300 cases, i.e., one out of three accused, were either absolved, dismissed, or are still in process). This is the result of a history, still ongoing, that started in 1985 with the trial sponsored by President Raúl Alfonsín that condemned the top military commanders—a trial based on the 1984 report Nunca Más and on the evidence collected by the Argentine human rights movement since the very beginnings of the dictatorship. The 40th anniversary of the Coup was hence an opportunity to remember the thousands of missing loved ones, and to publicly support a successful process of justice.
The second circumstance was related to the recently elected government of President Mauricio Macri, a political leader hostile to the human rights cause. Macri’s campaign rhetoric included the critique of what he called “el curro de los derechos humanos” (“the human rights scam”), referring to the close relationship between the human rights movement and the administrations of Néstor Kirchner (2003–2007) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007–2015) under which most of that process of justice took place. Once in office, the new government began dismantling state agencies, such as the Human Rights Office at the Central Bank, that had been mandated to provide evidence to support the judiciary in a further step: the investigation of the civilian and economic accomplices of the military government. The anniversary happened thus in the midst of a shift in official policy vis-à-vis the past.
Finally, and unexpectedly, President Barack Obama’s visit to Argentina was planned precisely for March 24—Macri’s advisors probably prioritized the visit over any concern about such an awkward date for a visit by the US President. After 12 years of a rather distant relationship with the Kirchners, the US diplomacy decided to support its new hemispheric ally with a presidential visit, giving the anniversary of the coup an unexpected geopolitical twist. White House officers, in view of the date, anticipated that Obama would order the declassification of official US documents regarding the dictatorship. Obama flew to Buenos Aires directly after his historic visit to Cuba. On the morning of March 24, as French President François Hollande had done in February, Obama visited Buenos Aires’ Parque de la Memoria, a quiet and windy edge of the city on the shore of the Rio de la Plata, turned by virtue of mesmerizing art works and architectural devices into an urban symbol of human rights. Obama threw flowers to the river, in homage to the men and women who, sedated and chained inside bags, were thrown there from military airplanes in the 1970s. But whereas Hollande was accompanied by the Madres and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and human rights activists, in recognition to the support given by France’s Socialist Party to their cause in the 1970s and 1980s, the US head of state was joined by Macri alone—no human rights organization attended the ceremony.
Why did human rights organizations turn their back to Macri and Obama, and why, despite that rejection, did both presidents decide to visit the Parque de la Memoria anyway? How should we interpret the two parallel policies, the one by Macri blocking the prosecution of civilian and economic accomplices of state terrorism, and the one by Obama to declassify military and intelligence files in favor of historical truth? What do the human rights of the 1970s mean to both countries today?
France and the United States are two countries at war against an enemy represented as the nemesis of Western freedoms. Human rights are the ultimate moral justification in the international arena against terrorism, and Argentina represents an essential chapter in that history. Paying homage to the desaparecidos became thus essential to Argentina’s friends—as essential as Jorge Luis Borges, dancing tango, or kicking a soccer ball. But since Macri’s political biography never intersected the human rights agenda, his words and gestures that day were odd and elusive, avoiding words like “military” or “desaparecidos” and instead blaming the past on “intolerance” and “divisions among Argentines,” expressions he routinely uses to criticize opponents. Macri’s support of the imprisonment of social activist Milagro Sala and the formulation of a repressive security protocol by the police to handle public demonstrations—a step backward from the peaceful tactics adopted after the massacres of demonstrators during the crisis of 2001–02—turned the human rights movement away from him. And yet, paradoxically, the presence of both heads of state at the Parque de la Memoria was a sign of that movement’s success in the public sphere.
Obama’s remarks at the Parque invoked the longer history of US Democratic administrations in this realm. He mentioned the role of the State Department under President Carter (1977–81) in support of the human rights movement, specifically through the pressure on the military by Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Patricia Derian, and the invaluable collection of data on disappeared citizens by diplomat Tex Harris at the Buenos Aires embassy. He reaffirmed the orders he gave in anticipation of his visit: like President Clinton in the late 1990s, he ordered the declassification of US documents, this time not from the State Department but from the Pentagon and the CIA. The awaited official recognition of the role of the US in the coup, however, did not happen. The fact of being in Argentina on such a symbolic date, exactly 40 years after the events, was apparently not enough to make that decisive step forward. Nor was the proven fact, recognized by historians in both countries, of the explicit blessing of the coup and its human rights violations by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. President Obama just said the US had been “slow to speak out for human rights” and referred to its stance in 1976 vis-à-vis the Argentine coup as a matter of “controversy” still requiring examination. He focused the visit, like Macri, on “the future:” economic relations and security cooperation, with respect for human rights. Some local and international press misleadingly took these as words of autocrítica and regret, but Obama’s remarks carefully avoided both.
Human rights appeared hence as more of a rhetorical instrument—with potential judiciary consequences in the very long term—than an actual matter of diplomacy. This reflects a particular balance of forces both in the US and in Argentina regarding the links between past and present. The history of the coup d’état and the state violations of human rights is an uncomfortable one to some Argentine domestic constituencies and policies, as well as to the ethical conundrums of US policies in Guantánamo, Honduras, and the Middle East.
A crowd flooded the Plaza de Mayo in the afternoon. Like every March 24, a multitude of organizations, families, and individuals marched towards the pyramid at the center of the plaza, on top of which a statue of the Republic symbolizes the history of the fight for human rights that started in 1977 right there—the epicenter of previous histories as well, from the recovery of democracy in 1983 back to the Independence Revolution of May 25, 1810, the one that gave the colonial Plaza Mayor, then de la Victoria (for the popular victory against the British invasion of 1808) its current name, de Mayo. The Obamas had by then flown to Bariloche, in the Andes, to take a rest before returning to Washington, DC. But there they received a final visit from Macri and his wife, doubling their diplomatic alliance as personal friendship. Hence, while a multitude commemorated the National Day of Memory, Truth and Justice—a day of mourning and remembrance of which the public TV channel offered no coverage—Macri posed exultant before the cameras with the POTUS. It was perhaps the most egregious contrast of this last March 24. Two rituals of power taking place simultaneously (1)—the mise en scene of an alliance between the presidents of Argentina and the US while the collective remembering of the citizenry took place at the plaza—in one more chapter of the convoluted history of hemispheric relations.
Far from settled, human rights in Argentina and the rituals that surround them are history still in the making. I take the expression “rituals of power” from Pablo Ortemberg’s Rituales del poder en Lima(1735–1825): de la monarquía a la república (Pontifica Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, 2014), to illuminate the changes and continuities enabled by official ceremonies and gestures.
Buenos Aires, Madres de Plaza de Mayo, 1981. Archivo General de la Nación, Argentina, Inventario 348582.
Vera Jarach and portrait of her disappeared daughter, Franca. Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos, Argentina. Wikipedia Commons.
I take the expression “rituals of power” from Pablo Ortemberg’s Rituales del poder en Lima (1735–1825): de la monarquía a la república (Pontifica Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, 2014), to illuminate the changes and continuities enabled by official ceremonies and gestures.
The contents of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Latin American Studies or the University of Chicago.