Hello all! I’ve been in Montevideo, Uruguay since May 9th, not including a week in Argentina attending activities with local scholars and fellow grad students at NYU’s Buenos Aires campus. My first week in Montevideo was spent conducting preliminary fieldwork and setting up interviews with members of a long list of organizations to discuss the political and social dimensions of the Ley de Caducidad (Expiry Law), a controversial 1986 law that extends legal immunity to the Uruguayan armed forces for crimes committed during the country’s 1973-85 civic-military dictatorship. Thanks to wonderful help from activist Andrea Caraballo and journalist/professor Lawrence Weschler in New York, I have been able to contact members of a number of groups that form the Coordinadora Nacional por la Anulación de la Ley de Caducidad, the umbrella coalition that is campaigning to annul the law via national referendum on October 25th.
So far, I have interviewed the secretary of Amnesty International Uruguay and will speak to the last AI president about the organization’s role in the political mobilization to collect signatures. I also plan to speak to the PIT-CNT, the national labor union that helped initiate the campaign for signatures, the Latin America Coordinator at SERPAJ (Servicio Paz y Justicia Uruguay), active in a prior unsuccessful 1989 campaign to repeal the Ley de Caducidad, academic experts like Marcelo Viñar, Alvaro Rico, Hugo Achugar, and journalists Natalia Castelgrande, Alberto Silva, Roger Rodriguez, and Eduardo Galeano. Interviews with smaller and lesser-known activist groups that are active in the current campaign have yielded very interesting conversations about the nature of political change in Uruguay and national identity. Two groups, Conbronca, a collective of digital artists and filmmakers, and Contraimpunidad, a small organization of activists interested in human rights in Mexico, are made up primarily of young Uruguayans who have no personal memory of the dictatorship themselves, but are actively trying to preserve and transmit the memory of state repression to their own generation. On May 20, I participated in the annual Marcha de Silencio, held every year in homage to Uruguay’s disappeared. There I had the chance to interview younger members of the PVP (Partido por la Victoria del Pueblo), one of the political parties most harshly repressed during the dictatorship, as well as two former political prisoners who I hope to speak to more in depth. In the next two weeks, I hope to visit important memory sites in Montevideo, develop a specific questionnaire to be completed by my interview subjects, and make contact with politicians and military figures on the other side of the debate. I’ve also created an experimental research blog for my project – it’s informal and I’m still figuring out how it should function (travel journal/news/analytical/hybrid?), but it would be great to have feedback from other students as my research progresses and inevitable challenges present themselves: http://memoryinmontevideo.blogspot.com/ Thanks!
MA Candidate, CLACS