Last Wednesday was a holiday (feriado in Spanish) in Argentina. Specifically, el día de la memoria por la verdad y la justicia. This holiday is in memory of the last military coup that removed the elected democratic government in place at the time under the presidency of Isabel Perón, on March 24, 1976. This coup d´etat was the start of a 7-year military dictatorship, which marked a period known as the Guerra Sucia (Dirty War), known to many as the darkest period of modern Argentine history. During this time, the military government used terror to control its people under the self-proclaimed Proceso de Reorganización Nacional (Process of National Reorganization).
Perhaps the most well-known and most tragic of the actions carried out by the militares during this time were the kidnappings and murders of an estimated 30,000 workers, students, professionals, teachers, and housewives, among others. These people are referred to as los desaparecidos (¨the disappeared¨), as they were often taken away from their homes in the middle of the night, sent to clandestine concentration camps, and subsequently tortured and murdered, without a trace remaining. Essentially, they were made to disappear, as the kidnappings and murders of these individuals were never admitted by the militares. The word ¨desaparecidos¨ still evokes to this day the nightmarish period through which much of today´s Argentina lived through personally and will never forget. The idea of the holiday last Wednesday is, in fact, exactly this – that what happened will never be forgotten, so that it will never happen again – ¨nunca más¨.
To learn more about the last military dictatorship and also the 6 previous dictatorships during the 20th century, you can visit (in Spanish): http://www.me.gov.ar/efeme/24demarzo/index.html.
This year, Argentina will celebrate its 27-year anniversary of uninterrupted democracy, the longest-ever period since the first military coup of 1930 threw the country into a cycle of mitilitary governments and short-lived democracies that lasted until the end of the last dictatorship and return to democracy on December 10, 1983.