They were the future. Pure future.

By Martín kohan

They were future, pure future. And not because they had, as they did, a past with a history, even –why not– with a tradition. But that past and that history, that past and that history, and that –why not– tradition had nothing but future, they spoke about nothing but the future.

They were the future; pure future. And not because they stayed, forever, in that age when everything is future. That was the time that was amputated from them, and it was huge. They were conjugated in the future tense, as much as a verb can be, especially when it is an action verb. And they ended up as such: non-declinable.

They were the future, yes. But that future (not the one they dreamed about, but the one they were creating) never existed. We, who came afterwards, who inhabited that afterwards (and this now) that should have been their future, are the ones who know best that this is not their future, that this wasn’t it.

It’s also why, or particularly why, they were not just future: they were, but they also are. Because that time to come (that should have come and didn’t) never came. Because that future (not the one they projected but the one they forged) is still pending. They are already past and history, and a present that vanished sooner than other presents, even the most urgent ones. But seen from the past and from history, from that other vanished present, they are nothing but future.

Do we look back? But never, as in that back time, there was so, so much forward. Are we creating memory? But it is a memory of what would come. Is this a visit to a museum? But it is a museum dedicated not only to what happened but also what was going to happen; a museum of an eagerness, a wish, a drive. A Museum of when history not only designated what had already happened, but was actually what had to be made.

There is something in the sound of names (as writers know). The ones with closed vowels (lots of “u”, pure “i”) hint at what is tightened, crushed, oppressed. In turn, those with open vowels suggest what unfolds, expands, grows. For example: Franca Jarach. Naming her is such a pleasure. She sounds like hope.

Faced with absence, produce presence

The tour wasn’t going to be an actual tour, nor the meeting an actual meeting in a strict sense. Everyone’s pandemic-imposed retreat drove us to Zoom, Facebook, Instagram: virtuality. Yet Vera Jarach, as an introduction to kick-off this tribute to her daughter Franca, who was disappeared by the military dictatorship in 1976, said the meeting wouldn’t be entirely virtual, because “affections are not virtual”. These words were the prelude but Vera Jarach gave us a fundamental key. Today we face the alternative between the presence and the virtual; virtuality expands and imposes on us because the on-site is banned. But when one says, like Vera did, that affections are not virtual, by undermining the virtual element of the meeting she was strengthening an on-site nature, she was even producing presence. And that is what was all about, and that is what it was. Protruding presence in the face of loss, of absence. In order to provide an empirical support (based on affection) to the “present” that, in the end, as in all endings, was proclaimed for each name, for the disappeared.

Turning absence into presence. Because of what Anibal Ibarra said afterwards: Franca Jarach “should be here”. Making room for her, giving room to her, a challenge that echoes in Diana Guelar’s testimony about how when, faced with danger and when in danger, she accommodated her in her home despite everything, gave her a room in the literal sense of the expression. Or in the Marta Álvarez’s testimony: “we were reunited at ESMA”; reuniting, reuniting with Franca, but precisely there, in the place of loss, the place of deprivation: “And one day I stopped seeing her, we didn’t see each other anymore”.

Turning absence into presence. How? For example, the way Beatriz Ruiz pointed out when she said: “Through Vera I met Franca”; by establishing a possible reunion, in spite of the loss. Or rather, finally, the way of Malena Arouh, an activist at the CNBA who said: “their fighting is still present”. That presence: the one of the fighting, their political presence, the most visceral one.