SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: MY FATHER'S VERSION (ENGLISH)



“Ring them bells / for the chosen few /
who’ll judge the many / when the game is through.”
—Bob Dylan, “Ring Them Bells”


My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain is a story about certain things that happened to me and to my family in the period spanning 1972 through 2008. While the events told in the book are mostly true, some are the result of the demands of fiction, whose rules are different from the rules of such genres as testimony and autobiography. I went back and forth on the idea of writing this book for about four years; the main difficulty I encountered was that of telling a story about which I had more questions than answers and which didn’t entirely belong to me. Writing about yourself tends to present technical difficulties, but writing about what happened to others, particularly if what happened was painful and still is painful even to remember, is an ethical dilemma. As a result this book had several false starts and its subject kept shifting and shedding fictional elements. My solution was to ask for my parents’ permission to tell our story. My parents agreed, on the condition that they could read the manuscript first and have the right to veto publication of the book in Argentina. When they read the manuscript, they didn’t exercise that right. However, my father thought it was important to make some observations that reflect his perspective on the narrated events and correct certain errors, which would contribute to a dialogue that he and I had wanted to have on many occasions but never did. Here I have gathered some of those observations, which my father wrote in August 2010 and which are the first example of the type of reactions that My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain is intended to provoke. Some of the errors he pointed out have been corrected since the original Spanish edition.


PART I

Ch. 12
I don’t know if we lost that battle. Sometimes it feels that way. But this book, insofar as what we have passed down to our children, seems to indicate the opposite. That a generation thinks it lost—or won—a battle implies an adolescent arrogance that falls away in adulthood, when you understand that Homo sapiens has been on this planet for thousands of years.

Ch. 15 and throughout
The correct way to say it is “la Argentina.”

Ch. 29-30
I read Silvina Bullrich, Beatriz Guido, Ernesto Sábato. In each case very little but enough to decide that they would not occupy a spot in the library. The Tunnel, for example, must have gotten left in El Trébol, the same thing goes for some minor works by the authors mentioned. I never read anything by Victoria Ocampo, out of class prejudice, and what I read by Borges—The Aleph, among others—didn’t interest me. Maybe I didn’t read the right books.


PART II

Ch. 7
Blanrec is an acronym that brings together the initials of the father of the Culasso family, Blas, and his sons: Lino, Ángel, Natalio, Roberto, Emilio and Carlos. The sons’ initials aren’t in age order because it would make the acronym impossible to pronounce. Lino (RIP) was the one who made the ice creams, with his brother Roberto. The ice cream shop has changed hands and continues under a different name.

Ch. 17
This is exactly right. The Burdisso case was just a trigger, the last straw in what was really worrying the “decent people” within the El Trébol community. This was clear from the first meeting held in the plaza to demand an explanation for Alberto’s disappearance, in which many of the town’s public figures took part, those involved with money and power and therefore subjects of criminal interest. In the next few demonstrations they appeared increasingly less and in the final ones they didn’t even show up.

Ch. 21
The term “loose living” isn’t that strict. The concept, in local understanding, refers to those who are not integrated into the system. On the other hand, “good people” are considered those who work, who have a decent family and decent behavior, who come from a good home and, even if they went astray a bit in their youth, managed to settle down. Also, value is placed, or was placed, on attending Mass and belonging to the Rotary Club or at least the Club de Leones. Family history has a lot of weight in the idea of a proper way of life versus loose living, therefore it’s true that someone who doesn’t have roots going back generations is suspect, since that history is hidden or vague.

Ch. 22
I never wrote the mentions in El Ciudadano. No one asked me. Sometimes I was the one who contributed a comment that the crime reporters checked with the examining judge, at his offices in San Jorge.

Ch. 24
My grandfather Juan Bautista did climb that tower in order to dismantle its wooden scaffolding. Because the timberwork was rotted, no one else wanted the task and that made his determination all the more valuable. Between its construction and dismantling, the scaffolding had spent two decades exposed to the elements.

Ch. 37
The initials “M. S. y B.” mean “Mutual, Social y Biblioteca” [Mutual Club, Social Club and Library].

Ibid.
The person who removed the fish bone was a doctor—Doctor Josefina de Perlo—not a dentist.

Ibid.
This part about the “old man” made me laugh. He is the lawyer Roberto Maurino, a classmate of mine and Burdisso’s in elementary school, the one who filed the indemnity for his sister and one of the people who organized the demonstrations. He was also the author and coordinator of the book published for El Trébol’s one hundredth anniversary, in which there are a few pieces of mine. There are contributions by various people who formed a group called the Grandparents of El Trébol, of which I am a proud member.

Ch. 45
Responses to the questions posed: 1) He suffocated from lack of oxygen and inhalation of dust from the debris they threw onto his body. 2) His broken bones and perhaps a loss of consciousness must have made it impossible for him to use the telephone, or maybe his calls didn’t go through, as the phone was ten meters underground.


PART III

Ch. 16
The poem is by Alicia. There are more in a notebook kept by Fanni (of Fanny Perfumerías—sound familiar?), now the widow of the lawyer David Páez, first cousin of Alicia and Alberto and their guardian when they were orphaned. David and his sister Mirta, with whom Alicia lived in Tucumán, were members of the PC [Communist Party]. David, especially, was very well known in Rosario’s academic circle, he taught Law at the UNR. After the hiatus imposed by the last dictatorship he returned to the classroom as a lecturer on human rights. Following his death—only months after Alberto’s, confined to his apartment in the Martin district after a debilitating stroke, not knowing what had happened to his cousin because Fanni maintained that telling him would have finished him off faster—a classroom where he taught at the university was named after him.
           
Ch. 17
It wasn’t that I got her started, but I did introduce her to a community—the group who put out that newspaper—where she would be among equals and protected from the ultraconservative and hostile atmosphere that El Trébol was—and in good measure continues to be—for those of us who were, generically, “the communists.”

Ch. 24
“Peronist Resistance” is a proper noun—both words beginning with a capital letter—to highlight Peronist as more than just merely descriptive.
           

PART IV

Ch. 12
The Iron Guard was never Marxist-Leninist; it had roots in the Peronist Resistance. The FEN (National Student Front), which in the early ’70s joined the Iron Guard and other groups around the country to become the OUGT (Single Organization for Generational Revitalization), did have an earlier Marxist period, which it had left behind to embrace a vague “national socialism” from which it found its way to Peronism.

Ibid.
It isn’t quite right to say that the members were trying to find out what it meant to be a Peronist. Somehow it became deterministic: There was no Argentina without Peronism nor Peronism without Perón, breaking with the gorila [anti-Peronist] nature of the homes many of its members had grown up in.

Ibid.
We never really discussed taking up arms as a possibility, though we never ruled it out either. Actually it wasn’t up for discussion; it had been dismissed by Perón when he said: “Between time and blood, choose the former.” What was always present was the idea of protection, for which a core group was created. They were called “Arms” in the internal jargon of the various columns of our “Orga,” where that language was used because it had been created based on a methodology taken from the classical schools of European military doctrine put forward by Napoleon, Moltke, etc., and because it wanted to instill its supporters with the concept of “a nation in arms,” since that was interpreted as making national emancipation possible. (A digression: This was one of the criticisms of the development of the Falklands War, that it didn’t put the nation in arms, which I offered to [Aldo] Rico in ’85 when he was still active, before the uprisings against Alfonsín. He, with the elitist spirit characteristic of the training he had received, dismissed my opinion and wanted to make me understand that war is best left to professionals and that the defeat in the Falklands was only due to the fact that the professionals in charge were poorly chosen.) Getting back to the subject: The Defense arm was created, a small troop charged with guaranteeing the safety of members engaged in operations, both against the governing regime and against other political and military organizations that could oppose us and threaten the physical well being of our comrades. That unit carried out tasks of vigilance, guarding and escorting comrades who might be the target of attacks.

Ch. 13-14
I can’t accept that the children of that period—born to participants in the experience that mobilized a large part of a generation—were a consolation prize or meant to act as a shield against a raid or a roadblock. The objective proof is in the many orphaned children, or those stolen or even murdered along with their parents. Their presence did not prevent these atrocities. It is very important to me that this be clear, even in a fictional framework, because it leads to misunderstandings that will make many, many comrades suffer and make many others doubt, those who embraced and accompanied our militancy in the certainty that we were fighting for life, not for death. I would say that, out of respect to all parents who went through those historical circumstances, the contents of section 13 should be reformulated and section 14 consequently adapted.

Ch. 16, item 4
Does it seem to you that the dictators, the conformists, the indifferent opportunists, the so-called vanguard of the ERP [People’s Revolutionary Army] or the Montoneros or the hitmen of the Tres A [Argentine Anticommunist Alliance] were or acted as humanists or Catholics?

Ibid., item 7
The main activity was in neighborhoods, just plain humble neighborhoods of humble workers but not particularly “underprivileged.” In neighborhoods predominantly filled with the class of people who gave support to the growth and development of Peronsim and to which Peronism gave rights—and obligations—in the transformation of society.

Ibid., item 11
Peronism, as we saw it, already had political and revolutionary consciousness. We weren’t going to give it that as enlightened intellectuals! It was closer to the opposite: we were looking to learn, acquire and share the political and revolutionary consciousness of the Peronist people.

Ibid., item 13
Rather than “dissolved,” I would say “merged with” or “joined.” “Dissolve” makes me think of disappearing, not merging.

Ibid., item 13
I’m not sure this happened, and it doesn’t seem likely. I would have heard about it. Besides, we never told on people or turned them in, especially not our comrades. The negotiation consisted of placing some sort of an observer—a retired Navy officer—in charge of the still pending dissolution process, someone who would be trusted by the enemy but still acceptable to us, in order to complete our withdrawal.

Ibid., item 14
The Orga had reached the point of being able to infiltrate the Peronist movement, which was the plan of the Montos, simply through inertia in the face of the void created by Perón’s death. Dissolving itself was the way to keep that from happening, to prevent the Orga from betraying its mandate. I accepted that.

Ch. 19
There were never expulsions, but there were arguments with those who dissented, and they chose to distance themselves. That was the case with Amarú Luque (who went to the Montoneros, shot in the Palomitas massacre), Pepo Briggiler (who went to FAR; fallen after the assassination of General Sánchez, in which he had taken part) and “La Vasca” Enatarriaga (who joined the ERP, was wounded in a confrontation and arrested, and later, after the Process had begun, killed), among others.

Ch. 24
Carlitos Bosso, for example, was more involved, as a guerrilla fighter with the Montoneros—he’s not in the photos because he had already left the group. He was captured and disappeared along with his wife, and the only thing he was able to negotiate before being murdered was the hand-over of their little baby girl (Mariana) to his parents, which the milicos [derogatory term for military men] fulfilled by leaving her with some relatives in Las Rosas who had a funeral home there. They, in turn, brought her to El Trébol. Another was Roberto Maurino (the “old man” who speaks in the plaza and in front of the Club at Alberto’s burial), leader of the JUP [Peronist University Youth] in the Law Department of the UNR [National University of Rosario], one of the above-ground branches of Montoneros, who was detained for a month in Batallón 121 but then released. Regarding Alicia, who was a member of the PC [Communist Party], whose leaders encouraged the business dealings between [Jorge Rafael] Videla and [José Alfredo] Martínez de Hoz and the government in Moscow that turned Argentina into the primary provider of grain to the USSR during the dictatorship, there was a rumor that she had dealings with a member of the ERP [People’s Revolutionary Army] and that was why she was kidnapped. But there is no proof of this, and it is even possible that the rumor originated, as a justification for her disappearance, in El Trébol itself, where communists and guerrillas were seen as the same thing and both were harshly rejected by the ultraconservative society of the town. 

Ibid.
I already clarified that I don’t think I was the one who got her into politics, although I accept that the humble experience of that group gathered around the weekly newspaper could have been part of her decision. But I also recognize, perhaps overestimating my influence, that I carry her martyrdom as a painful burden, which I don’t in the case of Carlitos, a victim of the treacherous “counter-offensive” plotted by the leaders of the Montoneros.

Finally, there is a reflection by my father on the book’s fictional status, which I reproduce in full:

As you mention in the end, a drop of fiction can taint everything as fictional, and it is possible that for readers in Spain the contents of this novel will seem, from start to finish, merely a bold exercise of your imagination. But, whether or not there is an Argentine edition, the book will inevitably be commented on here and the objective facts in the text will be held up against reality. One hopes that those who know something about these facts will feel affected, one way or another, and that those who don’t will accept them as true, because they are very much in parallel with what really happened and it is difficult to distinguish true from false. My idea is this: If my prediction is correct, it’s best for these readers to be well informed, to avoid conflict. And another thing: Undoubtedly, we always see ourselves in a story, as fictional as one may strive to make it. But in this case, the fiction, for us, is only in the format; the rest is almost biographical, or autobiographical. I cannot—I simply could not—read the novel as an intellectual exercise. I could not read the novel without it moving me as it has moved all those who have read it and as it will, no doubt, move all those who will read it in the future. I, in particular, read it as if the entire text were a long letter, written from the heart more than from the mind. And in it I see that you were able to cross a bridge that I find very difficult to get across, although I hope to live long enough and be brave enough to be able to do it at some point, even if with my last breath, in the way that you, your siblings and your mother deserve. Fortunately I was able, long ago, to cross the bridge that separated me from, while at the same time uniting me with, your grandfather. That was one of the things, I believe, that allowed me to have my own children. A few days ago, at the office, I was having trouble finishing reading the printed-out manuscript […] Jorge, seated at the next desk, was looking at me out of the corner of his eye. He thought I didn’t see him, but I did, and I realized he was wondering: “What the hell is wrong with this guy?” But he didn’t dare ask me. And it’s just as well, because I wouldn’t have been able to explain it to him.



MAY 2012 ADDENDUM


1

Although I wrote My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain believing that Alicia Raquel Burdisso was the only disappeared activist born in El Trébol, that turns out not to be the case.

Carlos Alberto Bosso, arrested and kidnapped in *osario on September 17, 1977 along with his wife and his fifteen-month-old daughter, was also born in El Trébol, on February 7, 1950. As a student at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral, in the city of Santa Fe, Bosso had become involved with the Ateneo, a group inspired by the third-world trend of Liberation Theology, and then joined up with Peronist Youth and later with the Montoneros; forced to leave the city, he moved to *osario with Mariana, his daughter, and his wife, María Isabel Salinas, born in Santa Fe on December 18, 1954. There the three were captured by forces of the Argentine Army, who returned the girl to her paternal grandparents (see below) and transferred the couple to the clandestine detention center “La Calamita” in the town of Granadero Baigorria and later (it seems) to a rural property in the town of Monje in the province of Santa Fe, where both were supposedly killed by lethal injection and then finished off with bullets. In June 2010, their remains were identified among those exhumed by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in a clandestine mass grave located on a rural Army property situated in the town of Laguna Paiva, where the bodies of Bosso and his wife had been buried and covered with lime alongside those of twenty-six other prisoners. After their identification, the bodies of Carlos Alberto Bosso and María Isabel Salinas were finally buried in the Memorial Pantheon in the Santa Fe Municipal Cemetery on April 17, 2011.

During his captivity, thirty-four years earlier, Bosso had written a letter to his parents, entrusting them with his daughter Mariana; the letter, whose date is illegible, is reproduced below, respecting the original grammar and syntax, along with the letter sent to them by María Isabel Salinas for the same purpose.

  
My dear parents:

These lines are to ask you for a big favor, which is that you take care of Mariana for a while. We know you will do it with much love as you did with me.

As you know we love Mariana very much, but we believe that for a while it’s better that she is with you. Later we will see each other again, everything will be different from how it’s been up until now and we will explain everything well.

We think that Mariana is going to be fine with you perhaps at first she’ll be a little confused, but she is a very good little girl and she’ll soon get used to it.

Tell her that both her mamá and her papá love her very much and that now they are away working very hard so that later we can live happily all together and in peace.

Greetings to grandma and grandpa, uncles and aunts and a big hug and kiss for you both from Mariana, Mary and me.

Ciao

Carlitos

P.S. Let Mary’s parents know that Mariana is spending some time with you, since they haven’t seen her in a while maybe you could arrange for her to spend a day with them.
NÉLIDA B. DE SALINAS
CORRIENTES 4203
SANTA FE

*

[The first lines are only partially legible.] […] Mariana can already eat everything […] year (mashed potatoes, eggs, grilled meat […] Now I introduced boiled sauces with meatballs […] week, breaded fried steak once a week […] she can eat but not too much, except for potato omelette, […] fritters because they are heavy. She also eats fruit […] except grapes (they’re hard to digest), she likes bananas best, she eats 1 or 2 every day) she likes it best mashed with grated apple.

Her eating schedule is: when she wakes up, […] at 8:30. 1 bottle (whole milk) with 2 teaspoons of sugar. She eats lunch between 12 and 12:30 with fruit and orange juice. I boil her water. She sleeps […] this and the other bottle, she has between […] 7:30 and 8 or 8:30 dinner. Before bed she has another bottle. This last bottle […] doctor told me I should stop giving it to her, but I haven’t yet, if you wanted you can eliminate it.

She isn’t accustomed to having candy or cookies between meals.

This week she had 2 days with fever, the doctor told me it was a flu, he prescribed Bactrim (one […] and Multin for the fever).

The flu went away, but she has a lingering cold.

Of course I so appreciate what you can do for Mariana and I know that she is nowhere better than with you; since we cannot have her. Thank you very much. Give her a Kiss […] day from Papá and Mamá to Mariana, that we love her very much. A kiss and a hug to you both.

[…]

Mary


2

El Trébol has a third activist who was disappeared for political reasons: Luis Alberto Tealdi, who was born in Susana on December 3, 1921 but lived in El Trébol from at least 1939. There he worked at the De Lorenzi factory and in the local hospital and was goalie for the soccer team of the El Expreso Athletic Club, which he also coached. Later he moved to Mendoza and then to the city of Campana in the province of Buenos Aires, where he began working at a steel plant belonging to the Techint Group; there he became well known for his defense of workers’ rights within the company, which led to his being kidnapped on September 28, 1977. What happened to him after that is unclear; his remains have not yet been found.


3

In February 2011 (shortly before the publication of My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain in Spain), my father asked the director of the Museo de la Memoria de *osario, Rubén Chababo, to provide him with any information at his disposal on these three disappearances, to support a city ordinance project for a Memorial Space dedicated to them. In his proposal for the ordinance project, presented to the El Trébol City Council, my father stated:

The interruptions in the institutional life of the Argentine Republic always represented an illegitimate appropriation of the unalienable will of the Argentine people by sectors that imposed their group interests over those of society as a whole, preventing it from exercising the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

This alienation of rights, which our Magna Carta qualifies as a “crime of sedition,” was confronted, each time it occurred, by the will to fight of many citizens ready to defend the articles of the Constitution and the law, with this attitude setting themselves apart from the indifferent and the opportunistic who, betraying prerogatives that belong only to the whole of society, consented to the existence of those dictatorial governments or decidedly formed part of them.

Among those fighters were Alicia Raquel Burdisso Rolotti and Carlos Alberto Bosso Rovito, kidnapped and disappeared in the last civic-military dictatorship, she in Tucumán on June 21, 1977 and he in Rosario, along with his wife María Isabel Salinas de Bosso, on September 17, 1977.

They were both born in the city of El Trébol, children of families respected in the community, and here they went to primary and secondary school and actively participated in local life until they had to move away to continue their studies in other cities across the country. In these circumstances, when the institutional order of the Republic was shattered, they both became selfless fighters for the return of democratic institutions and the respect for the will of the people.

Neither the time that has passed, nor the trials carried out against those responsible during that dark period of our history, have yet clarified the fate of these two citizens of El Trébol (which can be assumed with certainty based on similar cases), nor what their final hours were like, nor where their remains are located, this information denied to their family members and to all of Argentine society.

History and the Argentine people cannot be denied their right to know the truth, but also recognition is overdue for these sons and daughters of the city who contributed with their martyrdom and the sacrifice of their lives to the recovery of the rule of law and democratic life.

Remembering is an essential component of the process of building Argentina, and, in the case of those two citizens of El Trébol, a duty of all of us today who enjoy our regained freedom here.

*

I am unfamiliar with the details of the procedure, but (finally) the City Council of El Trébol sanctioned with number 858 my father’s ordinance project, which included a proposal for the placement of “a fountain or monument carved with the names of ALICIA RAQUEL BURDISSO ROLOTTI and CARLOS ALBERTO BOSSO ROVITO, kidnapped and disappeared during the civic-military dictatorship installed after the coup perpetrated on March 24, 1976” flanked by “two trees that represent for present and future generations the permanent presence of these two native children of El Trébol kidnapped and disappeared for acting in accordance with the ideals, values and convictions of those willing to give everything, even their own lives.”

On March 24, 2012 (which is to say, the thirty-sixth anniversary of the coup), in El Trébol they inaugurated the “place of memory, for truth and justice” that my father had proposed. In a review that appeared two days following the event, the publication ComoSomos Digital mentioned the presence of the local mayor, Fernando Almada, the sculptor Mario Amurri (who created the group of sculptures erected at the site), cabinet members of the city government and some councilmen, as well as Deacon Leandro Orellano and the head of the Forensic Anthropology Team in *osario. During the act Roberto Maurino spoke (he had also spoken at the “multitudinous gathering”—according to El Trébol Digital, that took place on June 17, 2008 against “the lack of justice in the Burdisso case and the lack of resolution in his mysterious disappearance”; see, in the novel, II, 23) as did my father, who read portions of the book. Here you can see some photographs and audio clips from the event. Among the people who appear are Mariana, the daughter of Carlos Bosso and María Isabel Salinas, and María Luisa, the daughter of Luis Alberto Tealdi. My father and my mother were also there, along with their ghost.




 DECEMBER 2012 ADDENDUM


 1

Some months later, in August 2012, my father exchanged a few emails with Florencia Cresto, director of the Arkhè theater studio in the town of Ciudad Evita, in the province of Buenos Aires, and with Silvia Fantín, close friend and confidante of Alicia Raquel Burdisso in high school, in El Trébol.

In one of those emails (reproduced here with her authorization, which I appreciate), Florencia Cresto remembers the following:

We met on one of my visits to Tucumán, where my brother Edgardo was living at the time. He was Alicia’s coworker and close friend […] and we became soul mates, even though I lived in the mountains and she in Tucumán. […] Those were the days when writing and sending a letter took time and, in my case, weeks because the post office was 60 kilometers away, but we sent letters back and forth and even packages (we exchanged little gifts). There is a place of honor in my home for the little ceramic statues and a basket she sent me. Who knows where those red stockings I knit for her are now? […] Her letters explain a lot about her everyday life and her feelings but nothing about her militancy, which was practically nonexistent (she did neighborhood puppet shows and wrote an article on the female condition or something like that in a Communist Party newspaper). […] Also simultaneous with Alicia’s disappearance, we received a “visit” from something like thirty members of the army headed by Lieutenant Vaquero, in the little school we ran, and, luckily, we escaped with our lives, although they destroyed my house and, of course, we had to flee. Already in Neuquén, in 1978, I joined the APDH [Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, one of the first organizations of its kind in Argentina; my note] in the first demonstration (we were no more than twelve people) with the feeling that I was standing there in memory of Alicia, which gave me courage […] The first few years NO ONE imagined that she wouldn’t show up. I had my doubts… but I didn’t say anything. Something told me that we wouldn’t see each other again.

[…] I made a trip to Neuquén and returned a couple of weeks ago and that compelled me to review my own story. Also, I am about to turn sixty and it is an opportunity to open up, from another place, the history, the bonds, the past without nostalgia and without breaking down. Without the pain that used to paralyze me.


2

For her part, Silvia Fantín maintains that “after much searching through my albums and boxes of photos I only found two black and white photos, small ones, in the old format,” adding:


You can see how much time has passed because the first photo is at Mar Chiquita lake in Córdoba, which hasn’t existed for a long time now, when we went on vacation with my folks (I think it was the only time we went on a family vacation because my dad was always working in the fields), we were about 15 years old. From left to right is my sister Mercedes, some kid from there, me in sunglasses, Alicia and another boy from around there. A story I remember from the trip was that one night, after waiting for everyone to fall asleep in the inn where we were staying, we put on our swimsuits and very quietly got into the lake which was deserted at two in the morning. […] We always liked doing different things, having secrets, speaking in code (for example every letter of the alphabet corresponded to a number and we made words by saying the numbers out loud. We did that in high school, the Escuela de Comercio. […] Around that time we did a detective’s course by mail. When we finished the course we investigated the lives of people in El Trébol. I don’t even remember who anymore, but it was fun.

[…] In her aunt’s garage, where we were supposedly studying, we were writing a novel that took place in Acapulco and its beaches, whose main characters were Sheela Kent and Lisa Kent who were Alicia and me. I don’t know which one was which. I remember that we called ourselves the Tulis in real life, one was Tuli L.K. and the other Tuli S.K. The novel was never finished. […] In that garage we started smoking, choking on the smoke of the Jockey Clubs we pinched from my dad (he would say he’d been smoking a lot because the pack was disappearing faster and faster). […] When I’m in El Trébol I remember more. […] I think her absence is a grief I’ve never gotten over.


3

In the words of my father, “it is very difficult to get information about Alicia”:

I hope there is something among what was left behind by David Páez, who was Alicia and Alberto’s guardian after their father’s death (their mother had already passed away). It turns out that David died in 2010 and spent his last two years debilitated by a stroke (he wasn’t told about Alberto’s murder to spare him further suffering), and his widow has yet to go through his law office to see what might be found there.

In early 2012, finally, my father applied for an order from the Argentine Ministry of Justice to obtain samples, from the cemetery in El Trébol, of the remains of Alicia Burdisso’s parents and brother buried there. The task was carried out by members of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team in order to acquire DNA samples to compare with the bodies that are being discovered in mass graves and clandestine burial grounds or buried as “NN” [nomen nescio] in various cemeteries, with the hope of someday identifying the remains of Alicia Raquel Burdisso.


MAY 2013 ADDENDUM


Some time ago my father began a series of small journalistic books about Carlos Alberto Bosso, Luis Alberto Tealdi and Alicia Raquel Burdisso, the political activists from El Trébol who were disappeared. Here you can download and read the first installment in the series, devoted to Carlos Alberto Bosso and his wife, María Isabel Salinas. This is the text my father read at the book’s public presentation (some images of the event can be seen here):


Stirring Things Up

In Argentina—and in El Trébol, of course—there are undoubtedly many people bothered by a commemoration such as this one today. And it is even possible that some of the people present, drawn here more by obligation than by conviction, are also thinking: Why stir up the past? It’s over! Let the dead rest in peace!

But this isn’t only about the dead and disappeared. This is not a funeral service. This is an act of militancy to remind us that dictatorships have an objective that goes beyond kidnapping and killing people. Their goal is to destroy a country, bring it to its knees, erase the memory of the achievements of those who built the nation, make people lose their ability to react and to fight, annihilate their hopes, break down their social fabric, their bonds of solidarity and the basic duty of helping the defenseless get back on their feet not with welfare but with social justice and dignity.

Presenting this book in an academic setting would have been a mistake.

This book—the first of three that aim to bring to life the figures and actions of four of our fellow townspeople who were sacrificed in their dedication to an ideal that guided their lives: serving others—should be presented as an act of militancy. As an act in memory of what happened to us—what happened to all of us—and especially for the justice that must be brought to each of those responsible—civilians and military—for the criminal acts of all dictatorships, particularly the most recent.

These “Chronicles Against Oblivion”—which will continue with two more installments, devoted to Alicia Burdisso and Carlos Alberto Tealdi— seek to make a contribution to the awareness of things that should never happen again.

That is why things must be stirred up.

We have to stir things up again, dream again, believe again, work hard again for the greatness of our country and the happiness of our people. Appreciating what we have managed to recover—including the bodies of Carlitos and Mary—but convinced that more must be done.

We must recover the utopia, that which makes us lift our gaze from our navels and, focusing on the horizon, continue in our pursuit of more equality, more opportunities for all, more social justice, more solidarity, less selfishness, less cowardice, more faith in our fellow human beings, more integrity in our actions.

That is the only way this commemoration will have meaning. And that is the only way to honor our fallen and to march firmly toward truth and justice.