Dictatorship in Latin America

The faces of the Disappeared

This image, entitled “Que digan dondé están,” comes out of the most violent period of dictatorship Argentina ever saw. Between 1976 and 1983 a military junta ruled the country; the result was that anywhere between 10,000 (the official number) and 30,000 (most historians and human rights groups agree upon this number) people were disappeared. The term “to disappear” someone may sound unusual in English. Desperecerse sounded strange in Spanish as well. The reason it sounds strange is because we don’t normally think of disappearance as transitive, that is, as something that can be done to another. To disappear someone is, in many ways, a more insidious form of violence than to murder. To disappear someone is to, in the language of dictatorship Argentina, to make someone not exist. Vos no existes is an insult that appeared at this time. The poster’s title is written in the subjunctive. It translates as “that they [may/should] say where they are.”

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