The ESMA Museum and Site of Memory’s landmark monthly event was held on Saturday, June 27th. This time, it honored Franca Jarach, who was detained-disappeared at ESMA. “Social Commitment and Student Activism: The Values of a Generation”
Due to the mandatory preemptive social isolation, the ESMA Museum and Site of Memory remains closed. Therefore, the Tour was held through Facebook Live and our YouTube channel, where 500 people from Argentina and abroad registered to watch the event. While this situation continues, audiences will be able to participate in the upcoming tributes online on the last Saturday of every month, as usual.
Participants in the event included Vera Jarach, Mother of Plaza de Mayo – Founders, member of the Social and Historical Memory Foundation; Aníbal Ibarra, attorney and schoolmate of Franca Jarach at the National Buenos Aires School; Beatriz Ruiz and Diana Guelar, who co-wrote with Vera Jarach the book Exile Kids. UES Activists; Malena Arouh, student and spokesperson for the students union of the National Buenos Aires School and Marta Álvarez, ESMA survivor. On this occasion, the chronicler was the writer, critic and professor Martín Kohan.
The event opened with welcoming words by Alejandra Naftal, director of the ESMA Museum and Site of Memory, who thanked the Secretary of Human Rights Horacio Pietragalla, the Secretary staff, the organisms, healthcare workers and the staff of the Museum. Then, she added: “This is the second virtual tour we make in these pandemic times, when we are all at home, with the challenge of continuing to build memory together”.
Video Presentation Five O’clock Tour: Franca Jarach
Before giving the floor to Vera Jarach, they played a video featuring images of Franca and actress Cecilia Rosetto reading a poem written by Franca. After the video, Vera addressed the unique nature of this tour: “Due to the circumstances we are currently experiencing, this is a virtual meeting, but not entirely, because we will have some of Franca’s schoolmates and dear friends, and their voices, their affection, their memories, all that is not virtual: it exists and it’s here, present, in this meeting”.
She added: “Franca is here, in myself, in many of you, and she represents lots of fellow activists who were held at the Officers’ Club, currently a site of memory”.
Then came Anibal Ibarra’s turn, and he stressed the importance of this tribute to Franca and to all the detained-disappeared: “This tribute is also a memory of all the disappeared, even when we are crystallizing it on Franca today, because it is a way of humanizing those thirty thousand, since each one of them had a story, with pain, joy, friendships and loves. We take them out of this number and bring them to the present day. Franca should be here, and this zoom shouldn’t have had to exist, but there was a dictatorship, they kidnapped and disappeared her, therefore this meeting is necessary, and I thank those who organized it”.
Franca’s old friend Diana Guelar talked about her personal history with Franca, saying: “I want to express some words of joy, because somehow our adolescence was shaped back in those days, and we felt important, like the protagonists of that time. And from that place Franca and I were able to enjoy lots of things”. She continued: “Franca was very special, she did everything with such intensity, love and an unusual intelligence. Franca decided to become an activist in 1975, knowing the risks, even if she was a young teenager, she understood the choice she was making. When she decided to become an activist, she did so seriously, and put her soul into it, knowing that she was actually putting her life at stake”.
Before moving on, Alejandra Naftal became very emotional because of Diana’s words, and said: “Years go by and one keeps getting moved even in the position I’m in. This thing we do contributes to us having memory, truth and justice”.
Beatriz Ruiz, a friend of Diana and co-writer of the book “Exile Kids”, talked about her experience knowing Franca through Vera. “I didn’t get to know Franca personally, but I knew Vera, and through Vera I met Franca,” she highlighted, and continued saying: “Activism back in those days was a whirlpool, we took it very seriously. In the student universe we joined the general fight, apart from our commitment to the institution, we also had a strong social commitment. I would dare to say that our ideals were pure, genuine, because we believed we were going to change the country, the society, the world.”
In turn, Marta Álvarez described the time she was captive alongside Franca at the Officers’ Club: “Franca and I were kidnapped with a 24-hour difference, and when I saw her she had that smile you see in the pictures. We saw each other two or three times. At that time they made us call our families, and we thought, naively, that it meant we were theoretically safe. But one day I didn’t see her anymore, I reckon that was in late July. Meeting Franca was my privilege.”
She also spoke about her meeting with Vera: “Later in time, Maco Somigliana (EAAF) asked me if I would be willing to meet Franca’s mom Vera, and I didn’t hesitate. I had a moral obligation to talk to her or any other relative of anyone I was held captive with. If that would have happened to me, I would have liked it if someone had told my mother. She wanted to know where she had been, if someone had seen her, and know that it wasn’t that she escaped. Her understanding, her affection…I will never forget that day, I think it was the best that ever happened to me”, she said emotionally.
Then, at Vera’s request to bring in the younger generations, it was the turn of a young member of the Students’ Union of the National Buenos Aires School, Malena Arouh, who began by giving everyone a “virtual hug”, and said: “High school shapes up your identity. And memory is part of that identity, a very important pillar. The memory of Franca, of all our fellow detainees-disappeared”. And added: “I can’t help but establish a parallel line with yesterday’s struggles and the ones we are fighting today. The memory of the fighting is one of the key foundations to establish ourselves as the youth”.
Finally, writer Martín Kohan, the chronicler of this event took the floor and spoke about the virtual nature of this meeting: “Vera said that this meeting is not entirely virtual because affections are not virtual. But when she says that this meeting is not entirely virtual, she is talking about something that is decisive, which is to produce presence. By stressing the fact that affections are not virtual she is doing that thing that is so important, which is to produce presence so we don’t have only absence”, and concluded by reading one of his own writings.
Before the closure, Franca’s cousin Dori, who was next to Vera, read a letter sent by the Italian ambassador in Argentina, Giuseppe Manso.
To bring an end to the event, Vera asked Marta Álvarez to mention hers and Franca’s schoolmates who are still disappeared today; then she told Malena and everyone present to join her in the cry of “¡The 30.000 detained-disappeared are present, now and forever!”.