The Dickinsonian

Speaker Discusses Abduction, Arrests by Secret Argentinian Police

Rebecca Agababian ’21, Staff Writer

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Dickinsonians responded with a combination of horror and amazement to Nora Strejilevich’s story of her abduction by the secret Argentinian police and her narration and poetization of her experience.

After Strejilevich and her brother were abducted by the Milicos, the secret police from the Argentina militia junta, in the late 70s, Strejilevich suffered multiple arrests, incarcerations, and the beginning of the ongoing search for her brother before recounting the experiences that she and thousands of others faced in her memoir, A Single, Numberless Death.

According to her publisher, the University of Virginia Press, the abduction of Strejilevich and her brother was part of a larger campaign to “eliminate left-wing terrorism” by the military junta, which seized power in Argentina from 1976 to 1983. The cause went farther than expected, “enveloping not only the violent left but other dissidents and innocent civilians as well, and particularly targeting the Jewish population.”

Strejilevich’s memoir Una sola muerte numerosa, translated from Spanish to mean A Single, Numberless Death, portrays the experiences of the more than 30,000 people who were confined during the reign of control, according to the book’s publisher. During her presentation to the Dickinson community, Strejilevich used numerous themes to describe her experience, including the term “testimony” in reference to “the memory of collective suffering.”

Strejilevich spoke of the “desparecidos,” a term meaning “the disappeared,” coined by former dictator of Argentina Jorge Rafeal Videla to describe those who were missing and trapped in a state of being neither dead nor alive. Strejilevich also described the dimension that the junta created by being in this state that was neither life nor death.

Additionally, she emphasized the importance that witness accounts of what the system has kept hidden because of their ability to reestablish the dividing line between life and death.

Lauren Toneatto ’21 said it was “fascinating that something so profound as this such as an immense amount of disappearances is something that can just go under the radar… I’ve never heard of the events that have happened in Argentina, yet hearing from [Strejilevich’s] experiences it’s unfathomable to me that we’ve never heard of it or it hasn’t been publicized to the extent that it should be.”

Kristen Kozar ’20 found Strejilevich’s description of “las baldosas,” which were like the sidewalks and how they put like stones or murals on it just so people can remember,” impactful.

It’s important that she just needs someone to listen,” continued Kozar in response to Strejilevich’s emphasis of listening as an aid in remembrance.  “[N]ot necessarily [to] understand, but just listen, because this type of context is across the history of the continent of south America.”

“I had never heard of stories and had never physically met someone who is a survivor of this type of stuff,” said Alyssa Morrissey ’20, “and she’s doing her own way of activism for these human rights, not necessarily protesting in Argentina, probably because she’s exiled, but, just because she is making it an internationally known phenomenon just in the same way that World War II is, and promoting it through writing instead.”

Strejilevich spoke on Thursday, Nov. 4. It was sponsored by the Spanish and Portuguese Departments, Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies, Popel Shaw Center for Race and Ethnicity, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and the History Department.

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Speaker Discusses Abduction, Arrests by Secret Argentinian Police