When Eugenio Kasalaba awoke on March 24, 1976, in Argentina’s northeastern-most province of Misiones, he and his father began the day with their usual routine of heating water and turning on the radio. But instead of the expected news program or an old tango, they heard an unmistakable sign of the coming terror: “Avenida de las Camelias,” the Argentine military’s favorite marching-band song, all across the radio dial, the same song. Stunned, Kasalaba muttered, “Papá, el golpe, el golpe” (Dad, the coup, the coup). Without taking his eyes off the radio, his father replied, “Come, let’s have a mate.”
In the 1570s, a physician named Francisco Hernández led the first colonial scientific expedition to the New World. He traveled Mexico collecting plants that might prove valuable in curing European diseases. Since Hernández was clueless when it came to the properties of local plant species, he depended on knowledgeable indigenous healers who guided him to medicinal plants.
Buenos Aires has just elected a mustachioed, millionaire mayor who owns Argentina's most popular soccer team. Mauricio Macri is Argentina's answer to Italy's Silvio Berlusconi or New York's Michael Bloomberg. The only difference being shades of ideology, gradations of fabulous wealth and the fact that Macri's high-profile business is not media, but sport. In the fractured Argentine capital where the sentimiento for soccer is virtually the only language that cuts across class and ideological differences, that counts for a lot.
The elevator is broken in Bolivia’s Ministry of Campesino and Agricultural Affairs, so together with Arturo Mamani Poma and Salustiano Vargas Villca, I walk up to the sixth floor, where we find a small, dark office with three desks, a few computers, and a conference table. Mamani and Vargas, both members of the National Association of Quinoa Producers (Anapqui), have come to the La Paz office to request a loan to build a quinoa-processing plant.
Impunity rides the coattails of amnesia and oblivion. Without memory to link the present with the past, current wrongs seem like historical aberrations, rather than the consequence of accumulated injustice. Authoritarian regimes and their allies know this well and are keen to snuff out those who reflect too thoughtfully on the past.
Although the presidential elections are more than a year away, the political jockeying already dominates local news coverage, even raising the fleeting interest of international media. And for good reason: for the first time in 60 years, a real possibility exists that the Colorado Party of former dictator Alfredo Stroessner could be unseated.