On March 24th

On March 24th, 1976, a military coup successfully overthrew and replaced the civilian government of Argentina, marking the beginning of a seven-year military regime. Today, like every March 24th since the return of the civilian government, a march through La Plaza de Mayo commemorated the anniversary (this being the 40th) of a regime filled with violence and repression. The story told here by the streets reminds us of the systematic kidnapping, torturing, and assassination of any and all political opponents of the regime, with an estimated total of 30,000 people “disappeared” by the regime.

Detained-disappeared friends seen in "Olimpo" CCDTyE 30,000 friends detained-disappeared, present now and forever!

Detained-disappeared friends seen in “Olimpo” CCDTyE
30,000 friends detained-disappeared, present now and forever!


Remembering this not-so-secretive violence raises many important questions about the conditions under which the military was able to take power. At the time of the coup, a similar concern for violent oppression that united us today at the march inspired the military take-over in 1976. High levels of internal violence led by the far-left was directed towards certain political figures, business leaders, and, if they got in the way, civilians via kidnapping for ransom, assassinations, riots, and destruction of property. In this light, the military justified its culture of fear as the only way to eradicate the chaos and restore the country to peace. While today we especially remember the undeniably excessive violence used to squash all opposition (whether violent or peaceful, regardless of age, and often enough without direct connection to the opposing parties), we must not forget either how it came to be. On March 24th, 2016, we remember not just the 40th anniversary of violence and oppression, but centuries of it, and now loudly as one voice, we declare ¡Nunca más! to dictatorship,
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to governments built on fear,
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to the inhibition of democracy,
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and to turning a blind eye to violations of human rights.
March 24th

A Tale of Three Cities: La Plata

To my fellow direction-impaired readers, I am proud to say that I am successfully learning how to navigate the city of La Plata after three weeks of very creative (and not so efficient) routes. Luckily for us, La Plata is on a grid system, meaning that all of the streets are numbered and go in chronological order. The creativity of navigation comes in when you hit a wonderful road called a diagonal that cuts through the streets, reducing the number of blocks it takes to get from A to B if you know which one to take. Every once in a while a plaza interrupts a street or diagonal, which is great for those who prefer to get around by identifying land marks rather than street numbers, and they are generally nice to walk through. These plazas are effectively very large roundabouts with several streets and sometimes a diagonal running around them, making them probably the most difficult part about navigating the city. In spite of this, the people of La Plata are incredibly friendly and if I am ever unsure about what street I need to turn onto (or even what street I’m on since many are unlabeled) anyone on the street is willing to help. In fact, several times while walking with other William and Mary La Plata students, clearly debating where to turn, people on the streets have stopped and asked us where we needed to go without prompting and kindly pointed us in the right direction. The friendliness of most people also extends beyond appearing helpless or lost. More than once while we’ve been walking to our various homes, we’ve encountered complete strangers walking in the same direction who started a conversation with us. People have often been intrigued by our roots in the U.S. and so far, reactions have varied from giving very useful information about the city to starting a political conversation about the implications of President Obama’s visit on March 24th. In all cases, though, I have felt overwhelmingly welcome as a newcomer in the city.

La Casa del Gobierno, Plaza San Martin

La Casa del Gobierno, Plaza San Martin

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Kim, Lathem, Josh, and Evan in front of the Catedral de La Plata in Plaza Moreno

Kim, Lathem, Josh, and Evan in front of the Catedral de La Plata in Plaza Moreno

A Tale of Three Cities: Buenos Aires

La Plata is a fairly big city as the capital of the Province of Buenos Aires (the equivalent of a state in the U.S.), but nowhere near the size of Buenos Aires, the country’s capital city. So far, I have only visited once, but in those 14 hours we covered enough ground for me to give a sizeable synopsis. The streets are slightly harder to navigate than La Plata since they are named for important dates, people, and other countries, but it does make giving or receiving directions more amusing. Should someone ask how to get to Honduras while in Buenos Aires, you will now know that this person is not hopelessly lost. On the Sunday that we went as a William and Mary group, the city streets were bustling, especially in the plazas packed tightly with street vendors, tango dancers, and lively people. Much like the United States, Argentina is a country of immigrants, and the physical manifestations of its roots and history stand tall in the form of architecture. La Boca, located in the south eastern part of Buenos Aires, was a typical destination for new immigrants and therefore was one of the more humble areas. For this reason, many families could not afford to buy enough paint to cover their houses at one time and would pick up where they left off with another color when they acquired more paint, leading to the vivid multi-colored buildings that line the streets today. As a Catholic country, there are an abundance of historic Cathedrals demonstrating the many European influences on the country, from Spanish to Italian to Greek. Other buildings, such as La Casa Rosada, embody not only the influence of founding cultures, but also Argentine history itself. Created as a Spanish fort in the beginning of Argentina’s colonial history, the modern-day Casa Rosada is the capital building, and as such, has seen many of the country’s most important events. From political coups to historic protests such as Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, this building and its surrounding plaza hold some of the most sensitive and memorable stories of Argentina’s past.

Special thanks to our tour guide Nacho who provided all information about the architectural history of the city.

La Boca, Buenos Aires

La Boca, Buenos Aires

Kim, Evan, Josh, Lathem, and Nacho walking around Plaza de Mayo

Kim, Evan, Josh, Lathem, and Nacho walking around Plaza de Mayo

Me, Evan, Lathem, Josh, and Kim in front of La Casa Rosada

Me, Evan, Lathem, Josh, and Kim in front of La Casa Rosada

One of many murals that cover the walls of buildings around the city

One of many murals that cover the walls of buildings around the city

Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

A Tale of Three Cities: Mar del Plata

Mar del Plata, about four to five hours south of La Plata, is an interesting combination of La Plata, Buenos Aires, and its own beach city spunk. The city is slightly larger than La Plata in population, making it no small town, and is a large tourist destination, especially during the summer months (December-February). Like Buenos Aires, the streets are named for important figures and dates in Argentine and South American history, but the combination of maps and friendly locals made getting around a breeze. The city emits a very energized and upbeat vibe, especially in its plazas and beaches. Among grass and tree lined paths, there are statues, street vendors, and even expressions of modern art. Especially in the south, around this time the weather begins to turn from summer to fall, making the beach much less crowded than in its peak season, but nevertheless full of life. As one of the last definitively nice-weathered weekends, the water was still swimmable but the most common beach activity other than swimming, and really the most common activity no matter where you go, is a game of soccer. Even I, having never played on a soccer team or formally learned the game, thoroughly enjoyed running up and down the beach and occasionally into the water while chasing after our borrowed ball. On top of being incredible exercise, the game is a great way to make all kinds of friends, some invited like our Argentinian friends at the hostel, others like the beach dog who inserted himself into the game (and played a major role in scoring both teams’ only goals). Whether you are dancing down the beach by moonlight or watching the sun rise over the ocean in the early morning, the positively carefree attitude of Mar del Plata surrounds you, leaving absolute contentment, hilarious pictures, and good memories in its wake.

Mar del Plata beach

Mar del Plata beach

Josh, Lathem, Mareike, Evan, Me, and Mathilde posing in front of an art piece

Josh, Lathem, Mareike, Evan, Me, and Mathilde posing in front of an art piece

Marcos, Evan, Mathilde, me, and Froukje in front of a church

Marcos, Evan, Mathilde, me, and Froukje in front of a church

Froukje, me, Kim, and Marcos trying to immitate the wall art

Froukje, me, Kim, and Marcos trying to immitate the wall art

Entire international squad first arriving to the beach

Entire international squad first arriving to the beach

Sun rising over the water

Sun rising over the water