Parque de la Memoria

14 Sep

My favourite part about my program, and honestly the reason that I ultimately chose this one over the others, is the option that was given to join a concentration. There is a Literature, Theatre, Directed Research, Cinema, and Human Rights concentration that you can do, in addition to the regular, sans concentration format that every other program has. I, however, chose to do the Human Rights concentration. And I have to say, I have not for one second regretted my decision. My schedule, with the concentration, includes six credits of classes of my choosing at any of the four universities that Butler is associated with (of which I have Argentine History in the 20th Century and International Politics of Latin America, both of which are taken at the Universidad del Salvador), an advanced Spanish class through IFSA that everyone has to take (but mine is about popular urban music, ballasaywhat?), a class taught by an UBA professor (Universidad del Buenos Aires) that is about genocide (there is also a gender class that you can take if you prefer social issues, but I chose political), and, last but certainly not least, an internship that IFSA sets up for us. In total, 5 classes, 15 credits, and 8 hours at my internship every week. A lot for a semester that’s supposed to be me traveling around Argentina, no? But, seriously, it’s not that bad at all. Case and point: I don’t have class Mondays or Fridays. Yes, that is right, every weekend is a four day weekend for Bailee.

But, I digress. The topic that I wanted to discuss in this post is my amazingly wonderful and awesome pasantía, or internship. I have been lucky enough to have gotten my first choice, which is the Parque de la Memoria. As can probably be deduced from anyone who speaks English, it is, fundamentally, a memorial park. And here is where everyone gets their history lesson of the day: in the 1970s and part of the 1980s, Argentina was host to a couple really shady dictators. And I’m using the word “shady” here because this is a University based blog, I have a few other choice words to describe these sad excuses for humans. Anyway, as you can probably figure by now, they did a lot of very bad things to the citizens here. Anyone who they thought as being against their government, they kidnapped, torturned, and/or killed. I can’t say exactly what happened for sure, because these people just disappeared, hence why they have become known as the “desaparecidos,” or the “disappeared.” There are hundreds of detainment centers all around the country, most of them hidden in what appeared to be public buildings, as a way to make it easier to deny to the public. It is estimated that 30,000 people disappeared within the 20ish years that these dictatorial regimes were either coming to power, were in power, or were about to fall. They included people of all ages, gender, everything – many of the women were pregnant. Rather than killing these women right away, they were tortured while pregnant, and then their babies were taken from them and given to a family that was under the control of the military dictators. Essentially, there was a genocide that occurred.

After the return to democracy in the 1980s, however, a group came together under the premise of “Nunca Más,” or “Never Again,” and asked the city to give them a space and money to create a memorial park. And with that came el Parque de la Memoria. It is located right along the Río de la Plata, because many of those who disappeared were eventually thrown into the Río. The biggest, most important part of the park is the wall, which is pretty much like the Vietnam Memorial in DC, only its cut into 4 and zigzags. This wall has space for 30,000 names, of which there are currently about 10,000. They are seperated by year, and then in alphabetical order. Each states their full name, age, and whether or not they were pregnant. This wall is a really important part of my Wednesday and Thursdays, because those are the days that I work at the park, and to get to the main building where the workers are, you have to walk along the entire thing. And every day I’ll catch a new name, a kid who was 14 when he disappeared, a woman who was 68, an entire family, or – the one that hits me the hardest – a 20 year old girl, just like me. I let my political beliefs be fairly known, and I’m studying polisci at university, and when I think about these things and that 20 year old girl, I realize that if I had lived in Argentina in the 1970s, that could have easily been me. It’s impresionante.

Besides the wall and the fact that it serves as just a super important political gesture, the park serves a sort of art museum. Placed throughout the park are these huge sculptures and art pieces that were chosen from hundreds of entries. Every piece has something different to offer, and all of them mix art and politics in a way that is just super fun to look at. During my first visit to the park, they gave us a tour just like they do the students and groups who go there, and for every art piece that we walked up to, we were first told who the artist was, and then we were asked what we thought they were trying to say with it, and then they told us what the artist had said they wanted to show. And between what the artist had said and what those in the group had suggested, it just turned into a really amazing conversation about art and politics and symbolism. It was a really great experience.

And all of this I am telling you from having been there just one week! I haven’t even begun to start my real work because there was an event going on last week, but I already love it there. The people are amazingly nice, what they are doing is just so exciting and important to me, and I am just so excited that I get a chance to work with them. They told me that I will probably be working in the section that networks with other memorial parks around the world – how freaking cool is that?! I feel like even with exciting trips like going to see penguins and whale and the Andes, Parque de la Memoria is going to be one of the things that stay in my memory the most.

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