Friday, March 24, 2006

report from the march

Just back from the march. Many many Argentines walking, chanting, dancing and remembering. Pictures of those missing and killed were everywhere, and again, I was struck by how young the majority were. From the banners were identified organisations involved human rights work and those who had lost members during the 'dirty war' - universities, hospitals, media, political parties, trade unions, women's groups, indigenous rights groups, gay and lesbian organization, churches and many others.

the indigenous flag

Florencia, one of the 30,000 people disappeared and murdered


members of the press holding up the names of journalists killed during the dictatorship

30 years on

Today is a national holiday in Argentina, called to mark the 30th anniversary of the military coup 24 March 1976 and the start of the 'Dirty War' in which some 30,000 people were killed or disappeared.

There has been a flurry of activity over the past few months with the announcement of prosecutions of some of the former military and political leaders believed to be responsible for crimes during this period. Earlier this month, the chief of the air force, following similar statements by the army and navy, finally admitted that the air force has been responsible for human rights violations during the military dictatorship. This week, the government announced that all offical archives relating to that time would be made accessible to help those still searching for the truth about their loved ones.

In an article for Latin America Press, Pablo Waisberg tells one of many stories of lost identity and families torn apart:
On Feb. 9, former police officer Ricardo Taddei was arrested in Madrid and charged with 161 counts of kidnapping and torture committed between 1976 and 1979. Taddei’s arrest was ordered by Argentina’s judiciary within an investigation into the First Army Corps’s repressive circuit that controlled 19 clandestine detention centers in and around Buenos Aires.

Taddei’s arrest coincided with the restitution of identity of the son of Gastón Casado and Adriana Tasca, who were detained and disappeared in 1977. A large extended family was in search of Casado and Tasca’s son. Baptized by his adopted parents as Sebastián, he is now 28.

According to the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group whose members — relatives of the disappeared — work for the search and restitution of the identities of children who were kidnapped or born in captivity during the dictatorship, 500 children were taken from their parents during this period.

Gastón Casado was kidnapped in 1977 and taken to the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA), a torture camp and clandestine detention center. In 2004, Kirchner designated EMSA as the site for the Museum of Remembrance. Adriana Tasca, five months pregnant, was also detained during the same time.

Sebastián, whose real parents thought of naming José or Josefina, was born in a clandestine center, which the country’s military named “La Cacha,” short for Cachavacha, the name of a witch in Argentine folklore who makes naughty children disappear. Sebastián was given to a couple — friends of a military officer — who raised him. The birth certificate was signed by a Buenos Aires police doctor, who is tied to other child appropriation cases.

As in many of these cases, Sebastián contacted the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo with suspicions that his was not his true identity. When genetic test results confirmed these doubts, he signed the receipt Sebastián José Casado. Days later, he was reunited with his biological family.

“It was something magical, something so unexpected,” said Ángela Barili de Tasca, Sebastián’s grandmother. “It was full of tears, laughter, something so beautiful, unforgettable for me. When he hugged me I told him that he hugged like his father. They were embraces that enveloped you, full of tenderness.”

Yesterday evening students, staff and friends of ISEDET attended a service to mark the start of the academic year. About 30 new students (including me!) were presented to the community and welcomed with words and applause. Later in the service, a retired bishop who had ministered during the Dirty War read extracts from his diary of 30 years ago. He wrote of returning from visiting political prisoners, exhausted by what he had seen. In his diary he reflected on the 'monster' who holds in one hand guns and tanks, in another weapons of torture, in another propaganda, in another silence and fear. But, he wrote, against this we have truth. The Bishop concluded with the words of a young girl at that time who was selling flowers in the street:
They can cut down many flowers but they cannot stop Spring.

This afternoon I will go with others from the college to participate in the march of rememberance and hope taking place in the city centre. I'll try to post tomorrow on this. If you do, please remember Argentina in your prayers today, and all those still grieving for loved ones. A wall of memory is being developed at:

There are pictures of last night's event on the BBC website:

Sunday, March 19, 2006

How to leave a comment

Various people have asked me how they can leave a comment on my blog.

You need to click on the word 'comment' that appears at the bottom of each post or entry.

This takes you to a page where you can see any comment that has been left already and also leave a comment of your own. See for example, the posting on Fair Trade where a comment has been left.

Write your comment in the box on the right and then chose to leave it anonymously - this is simple as you do not have to register and if you want to leave your name, you can do in the text of your message.

Press 'Login and Publish' to publish your comment. As far as I can see, you don't actually have to log in or register to leave a comment. has a clear set of instructions located at:

Thursday, March 16, 2006

sifting over scraps

Every night as I fall asleep, I hear the rubbish collectors and sorters down on the street below. Unlike the recent story in England about the man who was nearly fined £50 for putting junk mail in a litter bin, in Buenos Aires, everyone puts out their rubbish on the street each night. Before the city rubbish trucks come round though, the rubbish is picked over by organized and industrious groups of children and adults, salvaging what they can. Cardboard, plastic, glass and other recyclable materials are stacked neatly into handcarts or piled up high behind a horse.

So when I wrote last week that I couldn't find any evidence of the recycling movement, I was forgetting this very present part of life here. The people who sift nightly through my rubbish and others as like may Argentines who have had to find new ways of surviving following the 2001/02 economic crisis. Talk about living off the scraps thrown from the table. But as the women struggling to keep her daughter alive reminded Jesus (Mark 8.24-30), those hidden at the very edges of our societies also have people they love and care for, and their own hopes for the future. And they deserve more than the split and overflowing sacks of leftovers we leave for them.

In other countries, support for people who live off (or even on) the rubbish piles, is beginning to be accompanied by education in the wider society about the importance of recycling. In Porto Alegre, for example, Habit for Humanity were working with a community of rubbish collectors who had managed to win the right to the island on which they lived and sorted the waste. And in Sri Lanka, Christian Aid is working with the Methodist Church on projects who combine education on reducing waste, with support for those whose livelihood currently depends on it.

The BBC seem to be having the same line of thought this week! Visit the From Our Own Correspondent webpage where you can read or listen to a 5 minute piece from Daniel Schweimler the BBC correspondent from Buenos Aires on, among other things, the rubbish collectors.

Some news from me now. Tomorrow I will have my last Hebrew class in the intensive course, although classes will continue at a slower rate during the first semester. I'll also be doing some revision work on my Greek, taking a class on John's letters to help me experience at first-hand Latin American methods of exploring the Bible, a class on interpretive methods in general, and a class on theology and economics. I'm also hoping to do a practical placement with a women's group or organization in the city, beginning to read some of the Latin American feminist theologians I want to study and meeting with my supervisor to develop my focus for my research. All this sounds a lot! But here, the focused research doesn't begin in earnest until maybe the second year - the first year is more of a filling in the gaps.

I had a lovely weekend away from studies, visiting on Saturday the ecological rsearve in between the docklands and river edge. And finally going ice-skating on Sunday! No photos of ice-skating yet!...

Grasses and the towers of Costanera Sur in the background.

me and Marcia taking a quick rest before the mosquitos found us!

Stella Mar: Mary, the Star of the Sea - the folds of her cloak fell like a mermaid's tail.

more next week.

Friday, March 10, 2006

fair trade in Argentina

Seeing as it's Fairtrade Fortnight in the UK right now, I thought I would investigate the strength of the Fairtrade movement in Argentina.

It's quite a different situation to that in the UK. There is practically no public awareness about fairtrade from the point of view of the consumer. There is little in the shops by way of fairly traded goods, or for that matter, organic (a little) and recycled (nor recycling facilities).

In terms of producers, I have spotted a few shops or organisations working with local artesians to produced fairly traded clothes or handicrafts. The key area of development, however, is fairtrade wine. I spotted this newstory from last year about a fairtrade wine called Soluna, although I don't think it is currently avaliable in the UK:
I'll look out for it next time I'm in the supermarket (although not for me!)

Checking the Fairtrade Foundation website, there are, however, many fairtrade wines now avaliable in the UK, from South Africa, Chile and elsewhere. So, if you are a wine drinker, try them out!

If you want some inspiration on the growth of fairtrade in the UK, visit the Fairtrade Foundation site and read through their press release - £200 million worth of Fairtrade products sold last year in the UK - this is one area where campaigning and education for change are making a real difference.

One other thing to pass on to those of you who want to take something up for Lent and haven't got round to it yet - I have been using the Ship of Fools daily thoughts for Lent - some great activities and ideas each day during Lent.

more next week

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

dancing photos

a few shots while I can connect my lap top to the's not all work!

Dance at the WCC to words of Martin Luther King Jr.

Tango festival in Buenos Aires - views of dancing (blurry!) and the obelisk

Saturday, March 04, 2006

back from Porto Alegre

Yes, I did make it back from Porto Alegre! And I’m already fully emerged in life here at the seminary, particularly Hebrew – more of that in a moment.

But first to complete my reports from the WCC 9th Assembly. On the last day of the assembly, I sat in on some of the business sessions to observe the consensus decision-making process, introduced by members of the Uniting Church in Australia that has been using this method since 2000. The delegates each had a blue card and an orange card, blue indicing disagreement and orange agreement. At key points during a discussion, the moderator would ask for a show of cards and then invite those with blue cards to offer a different point of view. The delegrates then demonstrated, via the cards, their level of agreement with the dissenting voice. Gradually the assembly moved towards a point where changes had been made to statements or proposals to incorporate the various challenges, where accepted; the idea being to reach a consensus. It was fascinating to see the documents take shape or phrases being worked out in this fashion. While those willing to voice their disagreements publically tended to be of European origin, and predominantly men, the process did seem to offer a more collaborative and inclusive approach to decision making than a vote which often leaves the minority feeling ignored.

I really enjoyed the assembly - the people, workshops, resources, worship. It was fantastic being part of a global gathered community for the 10 days of the assembly. It was particularly great to spend time with old friends . Here’s me and Tamara on the peace march (as usual my eyes are closed!)

I had several close calls on the way back as everyone seemed to be heading to Uruguay for the weekend. One of the hotel waiters told me that the Brazilian rich don’t like carnival - they leave the country for those few days to the poor, returning when order has been restored.

Back in Buenos Aires, I’ve had a very busy week with my Hebrew course. I’m taking (as an optional extra) this intensive to consolidate and build on the work I did in the autumn through Birmingham University. This time though, it’s taught in Spanish and in four hour sessions three evenings a week. We are moving at a rapid pace, and I just hope I can keep up.

On Friday I had my initial panel interview to agree the shape of my first year here which was quite a different experience to what I imagine takes place in English universities. The head of each department was present at the meeting and each in turn asked me to describe my studies in their area and the gaps I had. There was a real sense of collective responsibility for my learning.

Outside of study, I’ve managed to get to some of the Buenos Aires Tango Festival

more next week.