Sunday, February 24, 2008


Andrew wanted to take a photo of one of the memorials that have gone up for people kidnapped, tortured and "disappeared" by Argentina's dictatorship. (There are more and more such memorials. Line of sight has photos.)

The mini-memorials are part of the sidewalk and follow the formula: "Here is where so-and-so was taken as part of state-sponsored terrorism on such-and-such a date."

It's jarring and effective. Yes, there are other monuments to victims of the dictatorship. But these work well because they're integrated into daily life. You're walking along trying not to step in dog crap and suddenly you're confronted by the fact that four people — usually named on the plaque — vanished from the spot where you're standing.

I knew there was one of these plaques on Callao not far from Corrientes. Andrew took photos while I diddled with my camera. I was still fiddling around when I heard Andrew say, "Gee, I wonder why they were taken."

He was being sarcastic. I realized this when I looked up and saw the Communist Party headquarters. They were rounded up because they were communists.

Decorating the entrance to party headquarters was an item of stencil graffiti that just became dated this week. "Aguante Fidel." ("Hooray Fidel" or "Hang in there, Fidel" or "Right on, man!")

[Digression I: This is a good time to mention again the young woman blogging from Cuba. In the latest entry, she mentions that neither she nor her parents have known any leader besides Fidel, who's been in power since 1959.]

[Digression II: At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the communists who were victimized by the Argentine dictatorship have their own little dictatorship going on down in Cuba now and are victimizing whoever they see fit. (I'm pretty sure absolute power does something. If only I could remember what!)]

Before I lived here, I knew that Fidel had a lot of defenders in Latin America. But I'm not sure I understood exactly why.

Here's the thing: Many of his defenders are hardly communists and they're not blind to the hardship and injustice of Castro's Cuba. But in a region that has often been abused, manipulated and battered by U.S. foreign policy, it's hard to sell short the enormous appeal of a single man on a tiny island who has defied the United States for decades.

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