21 February 2008

A museum for our memory

When the international media, or even the national Buenos Aires-based ones, speak of the last military coup and its executors, most actually speak of the junta and its top officials, of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, of the Navy Mechanics School. But of course, the dictatorship took power all throughout Argentina.

Right now several represores are being judged in a high-profile trial in Corrientes. Another group of criminals, the presumed authors of a massacre of prisoners, are to be tried in Trelew, Chubut.

No such trials are in progress in Rosario. Yet here were the headquarters of Second Army Corps, responsible for hundreds of forced disappearances — kidnappings followed by torture and murder, usually. Prisoners were held in a massive building that takes up a whole downtown block. The building was the police headquarters, until in 2001 the provincial government turned it into a local delegation for the southern region of Santa Fe. The municipality of Rosario also got a space. Then an enclosed square was built inside, and after the fire that burned down most of the Natural History Museum, the rest of it was moved to a section of this building as well.

The place where the prisoners were kept is now called Centro Popular de la Memoria. When Boston Review did a coverage of the 30th anniversary of the coup, in 2006, they used one of my pictures to illustrate it... but although the article spoke about illegal detention centers, the main focus was on ESMA, the Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires.

Dirty War (by pablodf)

Now it seems we'll be recovering another space for the memory of those days. It's a lovely house on a corner, a block away from the CPM, and it's occupied by a bar. The current owners paid a lot for it, and the ones who run the bar would have it forever. It's a prime spot and a beautiful building. But it's also where the orders for the kidnappers and torturers came from.

The place was embargoed, and the municipality paid a sum of money to expropriate it, but the owners would have none of it. Moreover, the ones managing the bar said they had renewed the contract until 2009. The municipality threatened to deny the bar its license, but didn't. And then a judge said the municipality had paid incorrectly — to the federal court that had embargoed the building, instead of to a provincial court.

Days ago, another judge reversed the ruling, so after this ridiculously long legal battle, the bar will have to close and the building will become property of the municipal state, which will install a Museum of Memory there, moving some things (such as photos and documents) from the former site at the CPM. It will open in May 2009.

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