On June 15th Professor of English Alicia Kozameh participated in a historic first reunion of more than 350 female former political prisoners, all of whom were held captive at the Villa Devoto prison in Buenos Aires during Argentina’s last military dictatorship. It is estimated that more than 30,000 people were disappeared or killed between 1976 and 1983. Then dictator Jorge Rafael Videla wielded widespread imprisonment, torture, and extrajudicial murder of opponents and activists. Over 1,200 women were incarcerated in Buenos Aires’ Villa Devoto prison over the span that the military junta ruled Argentina.
Now 40 years later, the extraordinary reunion of woman rallied at the Hotel Bauen, walking distance from the Obelisco de Buenos Aires. The event received wide media attention, Ramiro Giganti writing for ANRed of an “emotional tide of hugs and reunions… expressing joy from the revolution for which they are still fighting.” Sol Castro wrote of the reunion for Carlos Paz Vivo as, “keeping the memory alive, remembering the experiences in prison and celebrating the bonds and sorority that kept them alive.”
Professor Kozameh writes,
It seems easy to imagine a group of women coming together to reconnect. But our experience in prison was harrowing. We had to be extremely strong to survive, for ourselves, our families and for the whole group. In prison we spent years taking care of each other, sharing the few things we had, resisting repression, and defending one another from the violence of our captors who were determined to destroy our morals, our will, and our physical and mental health.
Professor Kozameh, pictured above second to the left in the back row with her fist outstretched in triumph, added,
We were at times almost paralyzed by emotions, we hugged each other, we cried, we laughed, and, more than anything else, we confirmed that, despite the hard experience and four decades behind us, we are the same women as before, strong, proud, who continue to be overtaken by the same feelings, convictions and values, and who maintain the intense desire for a more equitable, inclusive and just world.
This reunion was only one stop on Professor Kozameh’s travels this summer. Professor Kozameh spent May and June traveling through Argentina on a book tour for her two new poetry books: Sal de sangres en guerra (Salt from Bloods at War), published in 2018, and Sal de sangres en declive (Salt from Bloods in Declivity), published in April of this year, the first two of a five-volume collection of poetry.
In addition, she attended two conferences, held in the cities of La Plata and Cordoba. In La Plata Professor Kozameh participated in the 10th International Conference Orbis Tertius of Theory and Literary Criticism at the National University of La Plata followed by lecturing at a conference organized by the School of Languages of the National University of Cordoba and participating in a roundtable discussion on Human Rights with Dr. Susana Barco, Dr. Mirian Pino and publisher Gonzalo Vaca Narvaja.
In November Professor Kozameh will be traveling to Chile to give a talk about literature and human rights, gender and culture at a joint conference of the national University of Santiago and The Pontifical Catholic University, which will be sure to advance that very same spirit in Buenos Aires this summer for “a more equitable, inclusive and just world”.