Argentina just had elections this past Sunday, which resulted in a significant loss of power for the Kirchners. This is significant for my project because, as I have been realizing over these past few weeks, human rights projects here are tied to politics in a way that makes them vulnerable to shifts in popularity and power experienced by their political allies. The Kirchners have used human rights as a main component of their platform since assuming power six years ago. Since then various groups, such as the Asociacion Madres de Plaza de Mayo, have accepted both their money and support. This has proven both beneficial and complicated. Some members of Argentine society perceive alliances between politicians and human rights organizations as merely a strategy to gain sympathy and/or popularity while pursuing a less heartwarming agenda behind the scenes. Others see a partnership between the Kirchners and various human rights organizations as natural and beneficial to the causes promoted by these organizations. Either way, a shift in power to politicians who are less inclined to support a human rights agenda raises the issue of how these organizations will fare without the benefit of political allies.
As I wrap up my time here in Buenos Aires I am both grateful to all of the people who have been so generous with their time and resources and sad to be leaving with so many questions left to explore. I have been lucky enough to have spent time with a variety of people, from representatives of human rights organizations such as the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and HIJOS, to the Defensora del Pueblo de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. I’ve even had some extremely interesting conversations with several taxi drivers.
One challenging aspect of studying collective memory is trying to define what comprises the actual collectivity, and how to measure or gauge its various memories. This challenge has also opened up various new ways of thinking about the human rights movement here in Argentina, and the impulse to memorialize the violence of the last dictatorship. Who the repression of that era affected, or continues to affect, is in and of itself, a tricky question to answer. I have struggled to understand how so many Argentines exclude themselves from memory of the dictatorship based on their sense that it has no bearing on their lives, or that of their loved ones. I’ve only begun to explore this aspect of collective memory, and will sadly not be able to pursue it in person, but I know that it has important implications for my project as a whole.
MA Candidate, CLACS and Museum Studies