For the first time in an institutional act, the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Buenos Aires recognizes its students and graduates, detained, disappeared and murdered by State terrorism during the last civic-military dictatorship. And it does so in the person of the rector of the UBA, Ricardo Gelpi, along with the dean of the house, Luis Brusco, who together with teachers and non-teachers delivered the victims’ families the academic files of those who “militated for a more just world”, as was heard in the main hall this Thursday afternoon.
In that same faculty, some students were detained by State terrorism operatives. It was remembered this afternoon by those who survived the horror of those years, together with their companions and companions, together with the families of those who are no longer here. There are reunions and hugs while waiting for the start of the act. There is applause when the Nobel Peace Prize arrives Adolfo Perez Esquivel. There are songs when the president of Relatives of Detainees Disappeared for Political Reasons enters, Lita Boitano. And they are repeated when he enters the room Taty AlmeidaMother of Plaza de Mayo Founding Line.
“Comforted by this recognition, because it is the first time that the faculty has done something like this”says Taty, who arrives with her daughter Fabiana. Shortly after, to the closed applause of the people standing, she would be given the file of her son Alejandro Almeida, who disappeared on June 17, 1975. Alejandro was studying medicine. The night he was kidnapped, “he had called home to let them know that he couldn’t go to lunch the next day because he had to study for a midterm,” Fabiana recalls before Page 12.
Patricia Oviedo, sister of the health doctor and Peronist leader Carlos Oviedo, was kidnapped from the Church of the Holy Cross, in December ’76. She was in her third year of Medicine and had joined the first search groups for missing persons, for Pedro Oviedo, the eldest of the three brothers, who disappeared on July 26, ’76. Today Carlos, like dozens of the relatives present, receives the academic file from his sister Patricia from him.
A necessary tribute
The event was organized by the free Chair of Mental Health and Human Rights of the faculty, together with the work team that organized the five-year search for the records of 1,500 students and graduates, together with the Medical Student Center and non-teaching staff from the house The meeting began with a heartfelt interpretation of the National Anthem, by a tenor and a pianist on stage. Later, the words of Dean Brusco framed the delivery of the 140 restored files.
“It’s the most important act I’m going to have in my life,” shares Brusco. “A necessary act, and that we owed each other”, express. “As part of that generation that dreamed of a better world, and that today leads the faculty,” he recalls the years in which the academic field “was characterized by fear. And although it is a public space, it was not at that time because it was invaded by State terrorism,” he stressed. “It was not an autonomous faculty either” because it depended on the powers that be. “And it was not free because it was paid for,” he adds. And he maintained that today trying to “live well” is the best defense to preserve freedom and democracy.
Luciano Canciani, representing the non-teaching workers of the faculty, explains that “being part of the restitution of these files is an honor.” And in the presence of Mothers and Families, he describes: “One looks very small before these enormous women, great fighters, and before these families that are here, who continue to fight every day, for the legacy and memory of their children.”
Claudio Capuano, director of the Free Chair of Mental Health and Human Rights, assures: “We have come to welcome the 30,000 disappeared comrades to this house of studies.” The chair that he directs participates in trials against humanity and collaborates in the search for Memory, Truth and Justice, he pointed out. “Because we keep alive the legacy of our colleagues who wanted to transform society and also health”, he pointed out. Then, Aldana Frola, from CECiM, defined the event as “an act of historical reparation, to maintain the collective memory of the institution.”
The rector Gelpi – who was previously dean of Medicine – elaborated on the need to visualize the moment as “an act of justice”. With the recovery and restoration of these files, a cycle ends, he explained. “And justice comes at this moment, when we can hand them over to the families. Y Although they are no longer with us physically, today they have returned to be part of the beloved community of the UBA”he expressed.
a restorative act
What followed was a in crescendo shocking. The ritual prevailed and each name was answered with a firm and committed “Present!” The families go up to the stage where the file was handed over to them. There were photos, hugs and tears. Many brothers and sisters, mothers and children of those who were disappeared. Also friends, because many families are indoors or outdoors. Among the personalities present, you can see, among others, the Buenos Aires Minister of Health Nicolás Kreplak, and the national deputy Eduardo Valdes.
Abel Madariaga receives the file from Silvia Quintela, the mother of his son Francisco: “She had him in captivity, in Campo de Mayo,” recalls Abel. He also receives his files from the Gallina family, which maintains the absence of five missing persons: Eugenio Félix and Eugenio Daniel, father and son, both doctors. Also two other children, Silvia and Mario Gallina, and his partner Martha Rey “who was an obstetrician.”
Norma García Conde received it from her brother Juan Carlos García, who was in his fourth year of college and was kidnapped in June ’77. “He was active in the ecumenical movement, he went to the villages to do primary care, he did hospital practices at the Penna Hospital”, recalls Norma, who came with her daughters and granddaughters. Ana Benítez is a photographer and accompanies the family: “Seeing how they continue the fight gives you hope to believe that all is not lost”He says.
Family members carry an identification card with the name of the missing person. Some are surprised by the photo of the file. For many they are not known photos. They meet again with the pain and injustice of that time. “It is a strong moment, but also very restorative”, explains Taty Almeida to this newspaper. And she adds that she feels “a lot of anger.” “She also feels a lot of love and beautiful memories arise, but along with that is the pain, which never goes away. It’s not hate -she clarifies-, because I don’t know how to hate, but I do have anger because they didn’t allow us to continue with them”. At the end came the words of Lita Boitano. And from Taty that she chooses the slogan: “30 thousand disappeared comrades, present”, and she is accompanied by a tide of raised fists and hands with V-shaped fingers.
Shortly before the act, in the galleries of the faculty, the students of the Peronist group El Torrente prepare to enter the room. “We have been waiting for this day for a long time, because it was going to happen before the pandemic,” Florencia explains. “In a depoliticized faculty, planting the flag of Memory, Truth and Justice is something historic,” adds Julián. And Paula, who travels every day from Sarandí and is already in her fourth year, adds: “This also speaks of a country and health project, which has to be federal, and represent the rights of all, in order to continue the legacy of the missing companions. When she says it, she points to a gigantography located in the central corridor of the faculty: there are 72 portraits of medical students and graduates, victims of state terrorism. That great reminder will remain there, in memory of those who are no longer there, to keep alive their ideals, their struggle, their search for justice.