Mexico has traditionally been a country that has opened its doors to the politically persecuted. Many anti-fascists from Spain and Germany came to Mexico during the 1930s and 1940s, and during the 1970s – while the PRI regime persecuted its own dissidents – the country granted exile to many of those who were persecuted by the dictatorships in South America. Among those were a large number of Argentinian exiles; one of them was Gregorio Selser, whose personal archive was the beginning of the CAMeNA. Another was Alicia Carriquiriborde, who was forcibly disappeared in May 1976, survived the secret detention centre known as El Vesubio, was eventually ‘legalized’ as a political prisoner in the notorious prison Villa Devoto, and was eventually released into exile in Mexico. She donated to the CAMeNA the documents assembled in Collection K: the archive of the Comision de Solidaridad con Familiares de Presos y Desaparecidos en Argentina CoSoFam – the Commission of Solidarity with Family Members of Prisoners and the Disappeared. Because of this the collection mostly covers the period of the dictatorship, though some documents refer to events that occurred before and after, especially the trials against members of the Junta.
Many Mexicans mobilized and organized together with the political exiles and set up an active and effective solidarity movement. This movement documented the atrocities committed by the Argentinian Junta, raised awareness, advocated and pressured with government institutions, and participated in international solidarity networks. For this purpose it collected information on resistance movements in Argentina, solidarity movements outside of Argentina, on state terror, counterinsurgency, and the collaboration of the Argentinian government with the repression in other Latin American countries. Collection K includes documents on all these topics, often including lists of names and documents of photos with the forcibly disappeared, the imprisoned, and the assassinated; and also, documents which allow an insight into resistance movements in Argentina.
With regards to the repression exercised by the terrorist regime in Argentina, the collection holds detailed documentation on the enforced disappearance and the imprisonment of adolescents (B AR 31), conscripts (B AR 33), journalists and the cultural sector (O AR 1), and the catholic church (J AR 1). It includes documentation on children who were forcibly disappeared or born while their mothers were in the hands of the military (B AR 32), and a collection of testimonies mostly of family members which paint a gruelling picture of the deprivations and humiliations that political prisoners and their family members were subjected to in prisons (B AR 22), and a collection of poems, letters and drawings of political prisoners (B AR 10). It also includes material on Argentinian victims of Operation Condor since 1976 (W AL 1). The documents on the repression of the cultural sector include listings of state attacks on newspapers, theaters, and other cultural institutions, and lists of cultural workers who were forcibly disappeared, assassinated or imprisoned. These documents taken together show the extent and the depth of the repression and terror waged against dissidents, their families and friends – a terror that was forced all the way into the intimacy of people’s lives and their bodies and that was in different ways applied not only to those who opposed the regime but also, to anyone associated with them. A characteristic feature of the documents collected here is the sheer number of pages and pages of lists with the names of victims of repression, a visually impressive sign of the extent of the expression and also, of the ability of the resistance and solidarity movements to compile this level of information.
As well as state terror and repression, the collection documents resistance and solidarity. It includes several analyses produced by the clandestine armed movement Montoneros. Among those are their analyses of the economic and cultural politics of the regime ( G AR 1 and G AR 2), which give an insight into the thought processes of these movements. Another interesting document refers to the mobilization of trade unions and workers in exile from 1979 – 1982. There is also a collection of documents under the title ‘Contrapropaganda de la dictadura argentina contra los organismos de derechos humanos’, ‘Counter-propaganda of the Argentine dictatorship against Human Rights organisations’, which collects newspaper clippings and flyers in which the dictatorship slandered such organisations and sought to sabotage their awareness raising efforts.
Collection K shows the solidarity movement at work. For many of the militants, the association with like-minded groups in their countries of exile was a way of continuing their militancy and of not abandoning their comrades who remained in the country, its prisons and detention centres. The collection gives an impression of the organisations and collectives that were at work inside and outside of Argentina, who documented state terror and repression and made sure that this information reached the solidarity collectives outside of the country. While none of these documents – for obvious reasons of security – bear the names of those who assembled that information, they are testament to the bravery and to the perseverance of those who imprinted on their own awareness the terror and atrocities to which others had fallen victims. A significant number of documents on international solidarity conferences, meetings, and cooperations between solidarity groups in different countries show how well organized the solidarity movement was and also, its international outlook as there are documents on Mexican solidarity groups with other Latin American countries, for example El Salvador (K MX 2).
CoSoFam in Mexico ceased to exist shortly after the end of the dictatorship in Argentina in 1983. In the early 2000s those members of CoSoFam who had remained in Mexico reunited to take on the case of Ricardo Miguel Carvallo, a former torturer who had been employed by the Mexican government in a high-ranking administrative position. The Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón had requested his extradition, and the Mexican government finally detained and extradited Carvallo in 2000. The most recent documents in Collection K include newspaper clippings and correspondence on CoSoFam’s activism against impunity in this particular case.
The research on which this post is based was funded by The Leverhulme Trust Fellowship on ‘Acquiescent Imaginaries: Snapshots from the Cultures of Low-Intensity Democracies ’. Cornelia Gräbner would like to thank the staff at the CAMeNA for their generous collaboration and support.
Re-posted from: https://poeticsofresistance.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/the-networks-of-the-argentinian-exile-in-mexico-1969-2006-collection-k-at-the-camena/