Notes from Buenos Aires
In doing so, they create Buenos Aires’ most congested venue for political artwork. The bridge—an ever-changing canvas, painted and re-painted on an almost nightly basis with partisan insignia and slogans—has become the front line in a constant battle among the law school’s dozens of tireless political groups. A week ago, an anarchist fist, defiant against a blood-red sky, covered the bridge. Two days later, a communist group had whitewashed the surface, stenciling an outline of the Falkland Islands—over which Argentina has unsuccessfully claimed sovereignty for decades—where the first work had been. With each new incarnation of the bridge, one senses the parties’ hope that if they just use the right image, the right color scheme, the right slogan, their art will mobilize the legions of followers they have long sought.
Today, visitors who pass through ESMA’s doors are greeted by a set of glass doors that muffle the thumping rhythm of a subwoofer. Inside, a cavernous white chamber houses a makeshift jail cell dotted with steel-barred windows. Feel-good music from the 1970s blares from a speaker system overhead, and pulsing neon lights shoot from corner to corner. Overhead, a projector beams out a single word in bolded, multi-colored script: “Indifference.”
Such is the case, too, with nations, and there is much that Argentina would rather forget. Not even four decades stand between Argentina’s current democracy and a brutal dictatorship that tortured and killed 30,000 of its own citizens. Many of those responsible continue to walk the streets, occasionally appearing for television interviews and protected by blanket pardons offered in the 1990s. “Nobody even expects justice here anymore,” the Argentine novelist Marcos Aguinis wrote, “and it is easier just to forget.”