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And, yes, I DO take it personally: A human rights memorial to Argentina's Guerra Sucia
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Monday, October 15, 2007

A human rights memorial to Argentina's Guerra Sucia

the headquarters of argentina's guerra sucia - dirty war - the navy mechanics school, is only a short, five-block walk from where i live in barrio nuñez...

ESMA [Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada - the Navy Mechanics
School] was a fully functioning naval school during the time that
it was being used as a torture camp. The Officer's quarters, which
was located only a few hundred feet from a busy street in Buenos
Aires and is visible to pedestrian traffic, was the main building
used to house and torture the victims.

The rubber tip of Victor Basterra's cane bounced from one photo to another, pointing out the faces that elicit the most vivid memories from his encounters with them in this same building more than 25 years ago.

Basterra was a prisoner here at the Navy Mechanics School
, the largest and most notorious political detention center used by the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. The navy finally moved out at the end of last month, allowing workers to begin transforming the 40-acre campus into the country's first comprehensive human rights memorial recalling that era and its lingering consequences.

some additional background...
The Naval Mechanics School (ESMA), located Buenos Aires, is one of nearly 400 concentration camps/torture centers that operated in Argentina during the dictatorship. It is estimated that over 5,000 people were interrogated and tortured at ESMA and only 150 survived. ESMA had specially equipped detention and torture rooms as well as "birthing" rooms. Many of the children brought to ESMA and other concentration camps with their parents, or babies born at these facilities, were either tortured and ultimately killed in an attempt to extract information from their mother, or were seized and given to military families. In recent years, efforts initiated by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have been successful in confirming the "true" identity (using DNA testing) of about 85 of roughly 400 children who were "disappeared."

it was an ugly and horrifying time, and, to this day, few argentines really want to talk about it... to this day, it's said, when people who lived through that era see a black ford falcon - the standard vehicle used by the thugs who would snatch people off the streets - they will still involuntarily shudder...

Falcon de 1978 a 1981 "El clásico Argentino"

the streets of buenos aires are still full of ford falcons, many kept in good shape and now prized as collector's cars... there is an entire web site devoted to them that you can visit here...

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