This week I found the conversation with Rota de Grandis to be interesting in terms of her analysis of disappearance as a form of oppression as well as reconciliation and recovery of a nation from an era of frequent disappearances. Truly is seems to me that a pattern of people vanishing is one of the most violent and terrifying forms of control of a regime. The technique when performed well is devastatingly effective for the perpetrators as there is no accountability. Considering that the crime is without evidence and the only tangible fact is the absence of a person and the absence of an event. There is no place to start an investigation, even if you were to suppose that a police force would be willing to assist you and it wasn’t a private undertaking. Even with government sanctioned murder there tends to be evidence, grizzly as it may be often regimes are trying to send a message. This lack of accountability as de Grandis pointed out can lead to an alarmingly large pool of potential victims. I can imagine the most devastating detail for families would be the huge hurdle to finding closure, they can never be assured of the fate of their loved one. With the disappeared it can very often be assumed that they have met an end but the invisibility of any evidence of the fact leaves a torturous glimmer of hope. The inability to ever close the chapter means that families must have their minds open to the most gruesome possibilities and if the disappeared person has been killed they never had a moment to say goodbye.
I found the action of Argentine women to find out details on the disappeared and to locate their children to be especially interesting. Often protest even if it is peaceful, moves against traditional structures. These women have worked within their traditional gender roles as mothers and wives to petition for change. To me there can be no doubt that prescribed gender roles for women need to be expanded to this day. However this action within traditional roles is ingenuity and intelligence of a group of people who are simply motivated by care and concern for their loved ones. Their protest has remained peaceful and persistent and I believe it is a major testament to honour those who have disappeared.
In my reading of “Uncovering the Megalomania Behind Evita Peron”, Eva Peron undergoes a somewhat scathing dissection of her persona as opposed to her talents and influence. The critique that Evita’s popularity is attributable to her lack of testing is easy to defend. Her success came largely out of the bravery to insert herself into typically male dominated circles as well as through seduction and charm of influential men. She made these connections while maintaining a traditional femininity that was palatable to the machismo and patriarchy that was a hallmark of Argentina and Latin America. Obviously these structures continue to be prevalent in Latin America and internationally; however, Evita was addressing crowds during a period of dramatic advancement of women’s rights. This point is well illustrated in her push for women’s suffrage, though this struggle endeared her to many women (and provided her husband with a loyal voting block) she “was careful to enlist the support of her male listeners by assuring them that after enfranchisement, women would not become masculine or overbearing”. These and similar stances allowed her to represent modernity. As she had some immunity from criticism in this period as the wife of the president, she was a valuable figurehead.
Though many people suggest it Evita was in no way a politician. She was an emotional powerhouse, her entire life was a performance. This was so actualized by her Rainbow Tour through Europe, which was complete with huge spending on shopping trips, a massive entourage and a closet to match. Though different countries received her with varying degrees of enthusiasm this cemented her status as a performer. Add this to her rise to fame as a radio and television actress and this identity is undeniable. She was firstly and adored celebrity, she came to play a politician which explains the phenomenon of adoring fans, a phenomenon that for any normal politician is a bit strange. Her influence is summed up well in the testimony of Dr. Serge Pilar who recounts his memory of attending an Evita speech: “Throughout her lifetime Evita was able to hold herself above factions and espouse her ideas without having to answer for them to anybody.”
The main attraction of Evita came of the dreams of what this uncriticized golden woman could propose. Evita’s actual political bid was evidence of her complete incompetence, not only was Argentina not ready for this or any woman this close to the presidency, Evita was woefully underqualified. There is no evidence that she ever would have had the capacity to effect genuine change; her background, life and education do not support this notion. Evita’s political prowess could only ever be praised in theory and as her day has come and gone, she will perpetually remain symbolic of Argentinian dreams.
Scarpa, Anna. “Uncovering the Megalomania Behind Evita Peron.” Nyu.edu, NYU, Dec. 2000, http://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/ww1/scarpa.html.
While reading this week I was reminded and saddened by how little the pursuit of truth really affects the way human beings interact. The shocking violence of the Terror is based on violently conflicting beliefs. The worst violence occurs in situations when opposing camps have no interest in seeking out a middle ground. Dawson pointed out that he believes the biggest tragedy Peru faced during its dirty war was the obliteration of the middle ground, I’d have to agree. Our convictions can be based on a variety of sources and dubious or not they guide our steps. This is so important to understand when considering why many Latin Americans did not show more resistance towards authoritarianism. I think it was important to reiterate the catholic perception of the left. Especially Marxist leftists were seen by many Latin Americans as devilish. These people were so opposed to their faith and way of life that their children, religions and moral societies were in grave danger. Such high stakes can make a less than ideal state seem preferable. In the same vein it is important to understand the perception the Iquichanos had of outsiders. Mario Vargas Llosa does a really beautiful job of outlining the importance of belief in his article. It does not justify violence or murder but it allows for understanding. Understanding paves pathways to reconciliation. The horrible mutilation of the bodies was an especially repulsive part of the murders, the explanation that these mutilations were ritualistic forms of self preservation allow an unsettling glimpse into the mindset of the Iquichanos. Vargas Llosa also points out how perhaps the most disturbing part of the Iquichanos perceiving foreign journalists as evil devils was that it was not the most unreasonable understanding they could have had. For the peasants and indigenous communities of Peru gratuitous violence from essentially all the warring factions was to be expected. Violence breeds violence. This is why much of the time the least helpful first step of reconciliation is to assign blame. As an overarching theme encompassing all individual violent incidents is desperation. In writings from this time and other texts coming out of regions in crisis I have noticed the repetition of the phrase “the only way”. Many extreme leftists in Latin America believed class warfare was the “only way” to a fair society. This is alluded to in El Diaro’s interview with Chairman Gonzalo. Many fascist governments seen in this period were backed my individuals who felt authoritarian control was the “only way” to prevent the destruction of society by the evil left. I fundamentally disagree with this way of thinking, I think it is very rare and likely impossible that there is only ever one way of doing things. I believe the road to peace and progress is built on common ground.
I found this weeks reading on the Cuban revolution especially interesting due to its cynicism surrounding all leaders around. While Dawson didn’t condemn the revolution against Batista he certainly did not praise its leaders, least of all Fidel Castro. While it is true that the revolution was never a united front, Dawson seems to propose that Castro wasn’t in fact a representative of the majority so much as the most successful at asserting himself. He presented himself as a revolutionary hero, the incident with the doves landing on his podium is one of the most iconic singular moments of this process. Dawson casts doubt upon whether the entire landing was staged.
The most interesting part of Dawson’s analysis of Castro and the Cuban revolution is his explanation of the process through which the revolution transitioned into a regime just as oppressive as the one it had sought to replace. What is interesting is that the idea of ongoing revolution and thus resistance (specifically against the US) became vital to the enforcement of the regime. It became important for Castro to maintain enmity with the USA, a fact possibly exemplified by the apparently convenient shooting down of the Miami based planes in 1996.
It cannot be denied that Castro to at least some extent fulfilled the wishes of the people, specifically in terms of being a pioneer for income equality. The Urban reform law of 1959 served to boost the lower class. However the Agrarian law of the same year, though it returned land to smaller farmers and owners was a definitive step in the direction of communism and nationalization.
The most telling marker of Castro’s tyranny is his attitude towards dissent. The criminalization of opposition and the imprisonment of 100 000 of such criminals is clearly not in alignment with a society fully freed by revolution. It was important for Castro to be charismatic and personally powerful. He empowered the masses with assurances of his own might and intentions without giving the people much autonomy at all. This is why his visits to the US were and had to be painted as brave and defiant measures, Castro had to be seen as a man of the people who was on the ground seeking justice and freedom. This clearly served Castro well, his people did not accept this resignation. While this could have been due to a great number of his political policies that had improved the daily lives of many citizens, Dawson seems to believe that above all Cuba’s approval of Castro was of Castro the figurehead. Perhaps this theory is bolstered by the increasing cynicism that would develop in Cuba in the years to come.