Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Bones of Dead Men

The Bones of Dead Men

On an overcast Sunday in June I walk the block-and-a-half from my daughter's house to Avenida del Libertador, where a red light grants me fifty seconds to cross seven lanes of traffic. On the eastern side of Libertador is a series of two-story, white buildings with red tile roofs, settled on a great expanse of green lawn amongst lush vegetation. It is, seemingly, a Southern California junior college transplanted to the northeastern corner of the City of Buenos Aires.

But here no blondhaired coeds, clutching textbooks to their breasts, have ever rushed away from their surfer boyfriends to fly off to their chemistry or biology labs, for this is the home of the Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada, whose major experiments in torture occurred over three decades ago during Argentina's “Dirty War.” To be imprisoned in the bowels of ESMA one did not need to bear arms against the military junta, a typewriter or a pen would do. Here, mothers would be “disappeared” after having their babies snatched from them and awarded to faithful followers of the regime.

I peer through the metal fence for a while, then turn my back on the whited sepulcher and use all of my fifty seconds to cross Libertador. There, on the western side of the avenue, the blank faces of bland apartment buildings show no regard for the past.

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