MILITARY DICTATORSHIP EXPERIENCE
History: 1973-1985 Montevideo-Uruguay, dictatorship. The child is between 3 and 4 years old. She is afraid, terrified and stressed by external noises, such as crying, screams and the slamming of the doors of military vans. The darkness makes her panic; the only thing that makes her feel protected is holding her mother’s hand. There is great fear for people who are kidnapped and/or disappeared. The family’s behavior patterns end up being highly dysfunctional spiritually, psychologically and emotionally. All these fears and the feeling of abandonment cause phobias and manias to emerge in the child at the age of 12.
Once upon a time, my father moved with his cousins from Galicia (Spain) to Montevideo (Uruguay) to avoid military service. My maternal grandfather had previously moved from Rome (Italy) to Montevideo (Uruguay) to avoid a forced marriage. My maternal grandmother was born in Uruguay, as was my mother. My maternal grandmother had indigenous and European roots.
I am the third of five children. I was born during the dictatorship in Montevideo (Uruguay) organised by the military, the CIA and the United States government to control Latin American countries where the mass movement were demanding social and economic change. Latin America identified with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
My parents came from broken families without family support or economic support. During the military dictatorship, my mother did not work legally, and her two siblings had to escape to Argentina because they were being chased by the military.
Until I was five years old I lived in an area of Montevideo where many people were detained and disappear including the children of left wing militants. It was a lower middle and working class neighborhood. I remember waking up several nights to the piercing screams and cries of people. You could also hear the sliding doors of the vans in which the military took the kidnapped people.
I also remember in one or two occasions when several army soldiers with machine guns stood guard with their backs to our living-room windows of my house for several minutes. My mother did a signal to me with her finger so that I would not talk and she would give me toys and entertain me so that I would not say anything or make any noise.
My mother could not fall asleep at night because she had to hold my hand. If she fell asleep and let go of my hand, I would cry. When I did growing up, this created a lot of guilt for me: I have felt responsible for stressing my mother even more and not allowing her to rest because I would be crying if she didn’t hold my hand.
I think I lived with a lot of fears and a lot of stress throughout my childhood. My father had no family in Uruguay, and he came with his traumas without having worked them out. And my mother had her parents with a broken and painful marriage, without the possibility of supporting their own children, my mother and her two siblings who were refugees in Argentina. My parents could not or did not know how to receive mental health.
They could only survive and protect themselves during that hard time for everyone.
My mother was persecuted and taught me to lie about her name in the neighborhood so that if any military asked for her, the neighbor would know her real name. She also started working in black as a catechist in a Catholic church and in a Catholic school in the neighborhood.
During my catechesis, I remember that Sunday Masses were given by a priest named Solon. Sometimes he would faint during mass because he had been beaten up when he was arrested, kidnapped or / and imprisoned.
My father did not live with us because he worked in another town outside the city, so he came very sporadically. I think it was better for him because there was a curfew, and in Montevideo he was arrested and interrogated several times when he left work after the curfew.
In Primary school the celebrations were without colors and without music, and did not represent a party, but rather a formal, gray and joyless ceremony.
When I started going to Secondary school, being a leftist was something that had to be hidden, because the teachers made you believe that it was shameful or incorrect. I had to hide my political ideals.
I remember going to youth meetings where we would talk about who Lenin, Marx or the Bolsheviks were, and why we had been oppressed by the CIA and the United States. It was something we had to do almost in secret because it was frowned upon and censored to think differently. Or just to talk about the history of our country, which had lived a dictatorship.
We also went to teenage socialist meetings in the middle of nature to share the experiences of those who returned to the country from political exile, those of us who stayed in the country during the dictatorship living disappearances, those of us who could not find a family member because they was kidnapped or those whose their parents had to be in hiding with illegal work contracts so that they would not be found, as in my case.
My parents taught me to not drink Coca-Cola or consume products from the United States so not to benefit their economy.
My mother would take me to see short, homemade movies to the base committee, which are neighborhood socialist centers, about what had happened, such as “The Eyes of the Birds”. This was not seen or heard in the press. We could only share it clandestinely.
I remember one of my first jobs doing a promotion, representing a Yankee brand like Coca-Cola in a military barracks. I arrived alone, before the starting time, and my co-worker had not yet arrived. The military man who greeted me tried to be friendly, but he noticed my fear. I decided to interrupt the conversation and go to the bathroom to put on my uniform, and I almost had a panic attack. My partner came looking for me because when she arrived, accompanied by her father, the soldier explained that I was scared in the bathroom.
After the press conference and our work representing the brand, the military man who had received me said goodbye to me with a handshake, asking me my last name and intimidating me with his body language. I think at that moment I lost a few heartbeats and lost my breath for a few seconds.
Eight people I have admired who are leading or have led human rights:
- Rigoberta Menchú
- Nelson Mandela
- Martin Luther King
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Dalai Lama
- Eduardo Galeano
- Teresa of Calcuta
- Jesus of Nazaret
Four speeches representing equality and justice to me:
I have choose three quotes that represent peace in the world:
“Peace is not only the absence of war; as long as there is poverty, racism, discrimination and exclusion, it will be difficult to achieve a world of peace”. By Rigoberta Menchú
“Everyone talks about peace, but no one educates for peace, people educate for competition and this is the beginning of any war. When we educate to cooperate and be in solidarity with each other, that day we will be educating for peace.” By Maria Montessori
“The Hamas attacks do not justify the barbarity of the State of Israel in Gaza.” By Gabriel Boric
A film that has depicted inequality and its consequences:
A film that has depicted manipulation and oppression: