Friday, May 02, 2008

Ending dictatorships

Jack Chang from McClatchy writes about Argentine Dirty War witnesses who are kidnapped and sometimes murdered to prevent their testimony—fortunately the most recent witness reappeared. I had also just read that Manuel Contreras, the infamous head of Chile’s secret police (the DINA) was in the hospital with kidney problems. He’s 78.

These two things came together in my mind in terms of how long it takes for the trauma of a brutal dictatorship to fade. There is a lot of great work done on memory (see Steve Stern’s trilogy on memory in Chile, for example) but less about the generational nature of such trauma. When, for example, did the Spanish civil war and the Franco dictatorship really “end”? Does it require that the protagonists all die?

I don’t mean that it becomes irrelevant, because people do remember, memorials have been erected, books have been written, etc. But it is truly frightening that in 2008, people can be kidnapped or killed to protect members of a dictatorship that ended in 1983. No matter how we specifically define the “end,” in Argentina it has not been fully reached. Chile is closer, but the dictatorship does still loom there (however, the transition from authoritarian rule occurred seven years later than in Argentina).

Hard to say. Indeed, a UNC Charlotte colleague in History, David Goldfield, recently published a book about how the U.S. civil war still isn’t over for some southerners. And that “ended” 143 years ago.


Anonymous,  1:06 PM  

When, for example, did the Spanish civil war and the Franco dictatorship really “end”?

What makes you think it has? There was a pro-fascist demonstration at the Vale de Los Caidos in November and they are still trying to pass a historical memory law.

Greg Weeks 1:22 PM  

I don't have an answer. Certainly, "memory" is collected and distributed, and so lasts longer than the people who directly participated. Part of the answer may be in how widespread that memory is.

Boli-Nica 6:13 PM  

What happens with Cuba in the future? The entire Communist Party apparat is theoretically guilty of the systematic human rights violations that have occured over the past 50 years. Thats a heck of a lot of people.

Anonymous,  11:20 PM  


Well, I've always believed if you want to see proof that the Spanish Civil War has yet to end, just sit back and watch the latest match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. It's happening again on Wednesday.

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