Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When You Love Foreign Words...

Hola a todos,

Como andas? Todo bien?

Let me start off with something I did yesterday. I visited Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada, or ESMA. It was a former navy complex that was turned into a concentration camp during the military dictatorship of the 70's and 80's. About 5,000 people "passed through" there, meaning that they were tortured and then usually disappeared in death flights in which the army had told the prisoners that they were going to rehabilitation camps and that they needed a vaccine for a disease that was rampant in the South, but instead it was a tranquilizer so that once they woke up, they realized they were on a plane in the middle of the Atlantic and about to be pushed out. Why did they want them awake? Apparently the logic at the time was that live bodies sink faster. Some of the most disgusting things were that literally 15 feet there was a high school in which kids went to school every day while their neighbors were being tortured. Some of the soldiers also lived on the other side of the torture chambers, and ate and slept without even giving a second thought to the screams of the tortured. To keep the prisoners from talking to each other, they kept them all in the attic (obviously not all 5,000 at the same time) in wooden caskets where they often didn't even let them go to the bathroom. A lot of them were forced to perform slave labor like manual labor but also forging documents of the recently disappeared so the soldiers could use fake identities. Often, the soldiers would make the detainees call their families and say things like, if you hand over the deed to our house, they'll let me go. Well, many families did this, but they didn't let anyone go. The military came to have its own real estate agency because of how much they acquired. In fact, apparently one of the jokes that the survivors (about 200 of them, released into the population so that people would know what was going on, in order to enhance state terrorism) is that ESMA came to have one of the biggest Marxist libraries in the country. Once human rights groups started to come in to the country (the US was never one of them because they had supported the military coup), many of the buildings were altered so that survivors would be disoriented and not remember the layout (although they were hooded most of the time, sometimes they were allowed to see). They moved staircases and caved in ceilings. To this day, the military will not reveal secrets about what happened during that horrific time period, even though they "formerly apologized." Who were the disappeared you might ask?

Blue-collar workers 30.2 %
Students 21.0 %
White-collar workers 17.9 %
Professionals 10.7 %
Teachers 5.7 %
Self-employed and others 5.0 %
Housewives 3.8 %
Military conscripts and members of the security forces 2.5 %
Journalists 1.6 %
Actors, performers, etc. 1.3 %
Nuns, priests, etc 0.3 %

It was usually, but not always, left-wing activists such as socialistas, communistas, etc. Since many students and blue-collar workers were in these movements, they were the most targeted. So, me being an ego-feminist Pagan university student socialist, I would have been disappeared. I often think about it...

I had an interesting discussion about torture. (Don't worry, I won't go into grotesque details.) But basically, I was explaining to my ESMA guide that for Americans, torture is an abstract concept and almost funny; we glorify it in movies and we can watch it because it's something that will never happen to us. If you showed it in Argentina or Chile, I can guarantee you that many would be re-traumatized. So, my opinion is that by adding human elements, such as describing torture in details, it will help people to feel compassion for those who are actually interrogated in such terrible methods, such as those in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq are now. However, she argued that explaining torture would put a limit on what we call it, ("THIS is torture, THAT is not"), or that since there can be no explanation of the excruciation caused by this, on physical, emotional and mental levels, there's no use trying to articulate it. I doubt many of you have thought about this before, but what's your opinion?

I want to take back something I said in my last blog. I said that it was silly for los Argentinos to like classic rock because they wouldn't understand the words; it's the same thing my poetry professor said: people can cry from the sound of a violin without any words. In that same respect, people can listen to foreign music and still thoroughly enjoy it. I know as for me, I have a ton of j-pop and I'll be frank that I don't understand most of it; I've also come to really like a Chilean band called Kudai, and even though I can look up the lyrics and understand it, I don't always and I still just like the sound. The type of dance music that's popular here is called raggaetone (not related to reggae), and all the songs have the same kind of beat, just like American dance songs do (you might not notice it if you've never listened to foreign dance music). If you want to hear what it sounds like, this is a popular song right now, from the same singer of Gasolina, Daddy Yankee (from Puerto Rico). I still don't like classic rock, but I understand why they might. :)

Since I've sorely been missing nature here (seriously, I will never take trees and grass for granted again), I attempted to go to Buenos Aires's ecological reserve but I ended up finding a grassy hill to read on instead, so I stayed there until (of course) an Argentine approached me, asking what the time was (of course, even though he also had a cell phone like the Chilean guy). Random side tangent: the guys here are so forward that sometimes I feel like American men are shy and awkward in comparison. I CANNOT EVEN TELL YOU how many times guys have tried to kiss me; it's impossible to try to even count anymore. If they know you speak English, they'll say what they know (which usually amounts to "baby" or "hello"). It seems like girls and guys aren't really friends here; they're just "together," and they also don't understand the concept of "I have a boyfriend in another country." I've gotten pretty good at ignoring their advances but in this case, I was feeling lonely anyway (PERFECT target right?) and he offered to sit with me. He actually ended up showing me the ecological reserve which was nice, but there were a million people there. I suppose, what can you do in the middle of a city? He also bought me lunch, so you know, whatever works. :) jaja

Over the former weekend Kirby and I went to the Barrio Chino (Chinese neighborhood) and since he had never tried pocky, I forced him to eat some (I got "male pocky" for him jaja). I also bought some pearl milk tea, which was a real treat to me (adding milk to tea is just never the same). I bought this really pretty pink and orange scarf and we ate at a Chinese restaurant. They had a ton of little shops with typical "Asian" things and though I didn't buy many things (I'd already gotten a lot in Japan!) it was nice to see them. I hope I get to visit there a few more times before I leave.

This last weekend was Nea's birthday so we partied... a lot. Thankfully we don't have classes on Fridays here, so we went out on Thursday to an area called Las Canitas which has a bunch of bars. Before, we celebrated at Nea's host mom's house by drinking wine and eating dulce de leche cake (omg sooo good), and then we ended up drinking two glasses of champagne and seven shots (each) between two bars, one at which we kept asking what the bartender he recommended us. It was a good thing we had Jordan to take care of us, though I still ended up getting lost on the way home so I had to take a taxi after all. The next night, we went to a dance club called Caix and because it was Nea's birthday, she and a list of friends could get in right away (some people wait up to 3 hours!). It was so much fun! They played a lot of reggaetone and if anything good has come out of my ipod being stolen, it's that I've been listening to Argentine radio a lot more so I actually recognize the tunes! (Even the cheapest cell phones here are FM-enabled). I really can't say how much I drank considering Nea and her three Argentine friends just kept giving us drinks. jaja One of the best things though was watching the sun rise over el Rio de la Plata; it was so beautiful! I'm proud to say I didn't get home until 7:30!

The next day Nea, her Argentine friend Joaquin and I went to La Plata (let me tell you it was difficult getting up in the morning after like 4 hours of sleep...) to see this futbol game (between Argentine city teams). Well, it was about an hour away, but by the time we got there we were about 1/2 hour late and for some reason Joaquin's "side" wouldn't let him in, and for security reasons, the two teams cannot sit next to each other. Seriously, the violence is so extreme that they have police SQUADRONS come in for the games; I saw crowd control ones, regular police, and security guards that numbered over 40 (and that was only outside!). It was really sad but we eventually found a cafe that was showing the game so we at least got to see it that way... but I could hear all the fans chanting their team's songs and I really wished I could have been in there. I'm going to try really hard to see a futbol game before I go because it's such a cultural experience. Also, in happier news, the national Argentine team qualified for Mundial (finally)!

Oh and after hearing about it on the radio, Stella and I inquired as to whether there was another march starting at the Congress building, and, lo and behold, there was! I talked with some girls who are part of el Universidad de Buenos Aires's student workers' rights group; they actually have a faction within it just devoted to women's rights. When I asked a girl named Sol if she considered herself a feminist, she said no because she thinks that the issue should be fought for by both men and women, not just women. I found that pretty interesting. She also said that people had been striking twice a day every day against Kraft for almost 60 days. I find that amazing; even though just 30 years ago the state would have disappeared these people, their automatic reaction against worker injustice is to protest. I kind of wish it was like that in the US; there you need a permit, and to notify authorities, and then sometimes they still arrest you, so it's like what's the point? The people are so energetic too; there's something about protesting for a cause you believe in that brings an ecstasy like no other. People were dancing in the streets, singing club songs, lighting firecrackers, etc. Even though Knox is really politically active, unlike a lot of colleges, we're just so small and in the middle of nowhere that it would kind of be pointless to protest on campus. Who would be there to watch us? Anyway, to learn more about the situation against Kraft Foods, go here.

Well, I think that's all for now. Chau chicos!

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