By: Maria Rabinovitch
Rompa el Manto de Neblinas
Tantas veces me mataron So many times they killed me
tantas veces me mori so many times I died
sin embargo estoy aqui nonetheless I am still here
Gracias doy a la desgracia Thankful I am to my misfortune
y a la mano con punal and to the hand with that held the knife
porque me mato tan mal because it killed me so poorly
que segui cantando. that I am still singing.
The feeling that overwhelms me when I think about war is confusion. Truthfully, twenty-eight years have passed since the Malvinas War – or as the British call them “Falklands;” or as some Argentines, such as myself who are still hurt by the war, call them “F*cklands” – erupted in the Argentine Sea, and I am yet to process my feelings about it. Losing the War was in the end both positive and negative to the Argentine people. Hence, my feelings towards it are contradictory. The War itself was painful, many people died, young people mostly. However, Argentina fighting the War brought down a cold-blooded military regime that was killing more people than the War itself. Still, some people consider the loss of the land itself a negative outcome, and again I have mixed feelings about it. The land is located in a strategic place in the sea, and it would be an asset for Argentina to still have it; but, the people who live in the island despite Argentines and would have no problem making our lives miserable. They are xenophobes and have these ideals of superiority, as they were born from the lost City of Atlantis. Therefore, the content of the island is not so desirable. In the end, my relationship to the Malvinas War is an intimate one, and to truly understand maybe there are some personal stories that need to be told first.
Cantando al sol como la cigarra Singing out in the sun like the cicada
despues de un ano bajo la tierra after a year under the soil
igual que el sobreviviente just like a survivor
que vuelve de la guerra. who is coming from the war.
Before the War erupted Argentina was being ruled by a group of terrorists. They were the Argentine military, and they had taken over the democratic government supported by the United States, as other military regimes had done before throughout Latin America. At this time, the United States was fighting a Cold War with the USSR, and the two powers had cowardly decided to take down to pieces every country but their own. That is to say, they had decided to play RISK with real people and their countries. The United States had ignored South America for a while, but Castro’s increasing power in Central America, and the 1970 presidential election of Salvador Allende in Chile made America turn its head down South. The United States not only promoted but it subsidized the military Junta that overthrew the democratically elected Chilean government. Allende then chose suicide before seeing his country in the hands of those traitors, and this situation caused pain throughout Latin America. Further, it unleashed a chain reaction that would end with the deaths, “disappearances,” and tortures of hundreds of thousands of people, in the hands of the military regimes the United States put in place of democratically elected government in hopes of preventing “socialists” from taking over South America. Argentina’s military regime is still considered one of the most vicious in history. Today, parents continue to search for their children in order to put them to rest. Most of them will never be able to do so. It is a painful history, and most people in my country were touched by it. For example, my father was tortured, and he was beat merciless. His crime was to pursue an education. My pediatrician – our personal friend – lost his chance to have children while in jail because of the tortures, and his crime was giving first aid and birth control – condoms – to extremely poor women. His wife, also a pediatrician, was sexually tortured while in prison. My mom escaped from interrogation by burying all her “incriminating evidence” – namely, Nietzsche’s writings – in my grandparents’ backyard. To the regime having ideals was criminal, and being willing to fight for those ideals merited death. After the military regime took over the government in 1976, a war would have to come – a war that would anger their American benefactors – to put an end to their reign of terror.
Tantas veces me borraron So many times they erased my existence
tantas desapareci so many times I was “vanished”
a mi propio entierro fui to my own funeral I assisted
sola y llorando. alone and crying.
Hice un nudo en el panuelo I made a knot with a scarf
pero me olvide despues but then I forgot
que no era la unica vez that that was not the only time
y volvi cantando. and I returned to my signing.
War was declared by the military regime in hopes of appeasing the people of Argentina who were starting to rise after six years of terror. The first of the self-proclaimed “presidents” was able to hold office for a long period of time (1976-1981), while causing many atrocities. The other traitors, however, could not hold the sympathy of the people, and the Junta was in a crisis. Easy to understand considering they were killing and torturing so many of the citizenry. The last of the dictator, Roberto Eduardo Viola – pig for short – did the unthinkable, and declared war on the United Kingdom. Even today, after twenty-eight years, I cannot be prevented from laughing, every time I repeat this sentence. Here was this man who was so egotistical that he thought he could declare war on Britain. Not only that, but win the war, and survive as a legitimate regime without the support of the United States. If so many people would not have died, this would be a laughable matter in Argentine history. But people did die, and here is where I become puzzled by my feelings. Is it wrong for me to think that the War – and the lives – were a small price to pay to put an end to the reign of terror of the military regimes? Perhaps, you should all know that my father was called to fight in the War. My dad had been in the military before the regime took over – yes, they had no problem torturing their own. My dad was an officer for the Marines, and he had a high rank and was in reserve at the time the War broke, so he was naturally called to serve his country. I was just a baby. Nonetheless, my mother and my family decided to do some sort of a “bucket list” the couple of weeks before my dad was deployed. They wanted to make sure that if he did not make it, I would be able to watch the pictures and know that my dad was present in “important” events in my young life – i.e., changing diapers, feeding me, etc. My dad was deployed and got to the preparation phase at which point the War was over. He never got to fight. He told me many times that he was afraid of dying and not seeing me and my mom again, and that he would have rather died fighting against the regime and than for it. In the end, however, those who gave their lives in Malvinas saved the lives of many more, the lives of all those who the regime would have continued to torture and “disappear.” In that sense they made sure that we won a more important war. To me they saved us, and they saved people such as myself who cannot remain silent and who would not have survived as an adult in a country ruled by a military government. To them I am grateful. They have made the Malvinas War a positive one, and they made Argentina a Winner, probably the only Winner.
Tantas veces te mataron, So many times they killed you
tantas resucitaras, so many times you will rise
tantas noches pasaras so many nights will go by
desesperando. in desperation.
A la hora del naufragio At the time of shipwreck
y de la oscuridad and darkness
alguien te rescatara someone will come to rescue you
para ir cantando so you can leave singing.
Losing the land is sometimes seen as a negative outcome of the War. Perhaps in this sense I do not think similarly to most Argentine people. In Argentina there is still a sense of loss regarding Malvinas, and a feeling on entitlement. These are our islands, “Malvinas Argentinas,” but I see them mostly as pain. To me the only positive thing that came out of those islands was the end of the regime, and the rest is just pain and manipulation. Every time an Argentine government is doing something illicit, they just say “Malvinas,” and that is sufficient to have the entire population looking south for a few months. The Malvinas cost resources and deals with partners that Argentina chooses not to work with because of “ideological” differences. In the end, they are just a piece of land packed with hateful people. Those who live in islands hate us. They refer to us in derogative terms and have made it clear in several occasions that they would rather die than to be considered Argentine citizens. Still, my country seems to be fixated with these islands, and I truly do not know what would they do with the people living in them if we were to get the islands back. These are questions that seem to escape the Argentine mind. The idea is to get the islands back, no matter the cost, and to me this idea is preposterous. Hence, it seems that I am having feelings that are contrary to the ones expected in the Argentine commonality. Is sadness to be expected when a war is lost, as opposed of happiness? And further wanting back that thing that was lost in war? I am satisfied with the result of the War. The islands were small price to pay for the lives of many who would have had to continue to live under the military. And although I think that legally we have a right to the land because it is in our sea, I would rather let the land go than having to call the hateful Kelpers, Argentine brothers and sisters. This might sound a bit mean, but I think the Argentine-Kelper relationship has passed the point of reconstruction. Still, while I respect the feelings of those who think the land is important, I would and will oppose them if they push for another war, as it is clear that once more we would lose, and now there is absolutely nothing for Argentina to gain from facing Britain but despair.
I chose to add the lyrics of Maria Elena’s song “Like the Cicada” because even after democracy was reinstated, the military power was very much present, so was censorship. Many things could not be spoken about openly. For those things my country developed codes, mostly music and poems. This song was from the time in which a military dictatorship was eminent (1972). My mother used to teach me about dictatorships right at the beginning of our democratic government (1985), when she could not speak openly yet.
I have a personal relationship with the Malvinas War. This relationship was marked by my parents and my personal history. Consequently, some of the feelings I have towards the War have not been processed yet, and some just seem to contradict each other, those being happiness that there was a war – because it ended the regime – and sadness – because people died. Additionally, there are feelings toward the land, and those seem to be more clear to me. I am no longer interested in the land. I would say it still concerns me that I do not think as most of Argentine fellow citizens. Overall, I think wars are by definition confusing, and any situation that involves death tends to be difficult to comprehend. However, wars are worse because they involve the unnatural death of so many people, who were not destined to die yet. Many of whom are forced to fight, many of whom are considered collateral damage. I think I will always be confused by this War, and I will always be confused by any war; and those who believe they understand wars, they were just lucky enough to be too far removed from the conflict, and their feelings were never involved it.