The Exhibition Setting
The exhibition called The IACHR Visit focuses on the period in which the ESMA went off the ESMA, and goes over the denunciation strategies used by human rights organizations. A story with two stories. One expressing the light, the other expressing the shadows. The exhibition was organized with the goal of conveying the before, during and after of the IACHR visit in 1979, narrating at the same time the situation of living inside and outside the ESMA CCDT&E.
The setting was organized by the ESMA Museum and Site of Memory and Memoria Abierta. The exhibition consists of 2 spaces, each one responding to a theme. The first one describes the IACHR visit inside the ESMA through panels and a video featuring testimonies about the kidnap victims’ life at El Silencio island. The second one depicts the periods before, during, and after the IACHR visit in Argentina.
Ever since the early years of the dictatorship, the Argentine human rights movement denounced abroad the serious human rights violations that occurred in our country. Faced with the government’s rejection, international bodies functioned as an alternative. The first complaints before the IACHR were presented as individual petitions, which were later collective.
In September 1979, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arrived in the country to carry out an “in loco” inspection thanks to the efforts made by relatives of the detained-disappeared. The IACHR visited prisons, clandestine centers, and received thousands of complaints from mothers, fathers, relatives, and survivors who queued in long lines at the Organization of American States’ building at Avenida de Mayo 760 in the City of Buenos Aires.
Before the visit of the Commission, many clandestine centers were vacated. The navy decided to refurbish the building in order to hide the sectors used for the torture, detention and extermination of prisoners. And as the date of the ESMA inspection approached, they hid the detainees on an island in the Paraná Delta called El Silencio, which was used until shortly before by the Archbishopric of Buenos Aires.
The visit marked a milestone in the history of the Argentine dictatorship because it began to unveil the curtain of horror before the world. It also represented a turning point in the history of the ESMA, where navy officers intended to trick the commissioners with a great simulation.
This first room gives an account of the reforms in the ESMA building due to the IACHR visit, the forced labor and the trip of the kidnapped victims to El Silencio island. It also reflects the survivors’ efforts to locate the place and incorporate it into the trials that are taking place today.
Before and After
This room gives an account of the efforts made by Human Rights organizations before, during and after the visit of the Commission. It also reflects the Commission’s work during their stay in Argentina.