Uruguay: Silent March Remembering Disappeared Detainees

Every May 20 for the last 15 years, Uruguayans gather in Montevideo to participate in a silent march remembering those killed and disappeared during the military dictatorship which began in 1973 and ended in 1985. The march is organized by the group Mujeres y Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos (Women and Family of the Disappeared Detainees), and this year they made a video [es] where a spokeswoman for the group talks about the origin of the march and explains that their struggle:

persigue los objetivos de verdad, justicia, memoria y nunca mas terrorismo de estado.

seeks the objectives of truth, justice, memory and so that there will never again be terrorism of the state.

Picture taken during a previous March of Silence. Sign reads "We choose memory." Photo uploaded by Flickr user Xanti Revueltas and used under a Creative Commons license

Rosa Zarina Loureiro Malán in her blog Mburucuya [es] writes:

Esta Marcha recuerda los asesinatos enigmáticos ocurridos y se reclaman datos sobre más de 200 personas Desaparecidas – acaecidos en el Uruguay – en tiempos de la Dictadura. Para sanar las heridas de nuestro pueblo, tienen que ser aportadas a la población, las: Informaciones Necesarias, para que tomen conocimiento de ellas todos los uruguayos

The march remembers the enigmatic murders that occurred and it calls for information on the more than 200 people missing – this occurred in Uruguay – in times of dictatorship. To heal the wounds of our people, the people must receive the necessary information so that all Uruguayans can know what happened

Uruguayan bloggers supporting the march wrote posts explaining its significance and alluded to the present situation for the families of the disappeared detainees who are still seeking justice. Last year, a plebiscite in favor of annulling a law which gives impunity to those who committed crimes during the dictatorship failed [es], leaving many Uruguayans frustrated and disillusioned with the judicial system. The current president, José Mujica —who suffered firsthand the atrocities of the dictatorship— has also suggested releasing detained military officials [es] involved in the dictatorship that are now older than 70 years old.

The blog Uruguay Antinatural [es] published several posts related to the march. A post tittled, “Esto Continúa” (This Continues) describes this year’s march and its significance:

Había expectativa. Prometía ser multitudinaria. Y lo fue. Cuadras y cuadras de personas caminando en silencio, para no callar. Pero, sobre todo, fue diferente. Las personas así lo sintieron. Fue la primera Marcha del Silencio después del fracaso del plebiscito por la nulidad de la Ley de Caducidad. Y la primera después de que el presidente José Mujica (que acompañó la caminata durante dos cuadras) hablara de reconciliación. De unidad nacional. De convivencia. Pero sin consultar a las víctimas, se quejaban.

Decían que la multitud era una señal de que no se perdió la batalla. De que todavía se puede anular. Decían que la multitud es la reafirmación de que no hay derrota y una señal de que hay que seguir luchando contra la impunidad. Decían que esa multitud era dolor y que las respuestas para ese sentimiento habrá que construirlas entre todos. Y decían que todavía quedan marchas. Hasta que haya verdad. Hasta haya justicia. Algo que quizás muchísimas personas que ayer marchaban no lleguen a ver. Por el tiempo, por los años de lucha.

There was expectation. It promised to be massive. And it was. Blocks and blocks of people walking in silence, to not be silent. But above all, it was different. That is how people felt it. It was the first March of Silence after the failure of the plebiscite for the annulment of the amnesty law. And the first after President Jose Mujica (who accompanied the walk for two blocks) spoke of reconciliation. Of national unity. Of coexistence. But without consulting the victims, they complained.

They said the crowd was a sign that the battle was not lost. That [the law] can still be overridden. They said the crowd is a reaffirmation that there is no defeat and a sign that we must continue the fight against impunity. They said the crowd showed the pain and that the answers to that feeling will have to be built together. And they said that there are still marches still to come. Until there is truth. Until there is justice. Something that perhaps many people who marched yesterday will not come to see. Because of time, because of the years of struggle.

Image titled "They are somewhere" taken during past Silence March. Photo uploaded by Flickr user Pachakutik and used a Creative Commons license

Ivonne Leites in the blog El Polvorín [es] hopes a march asking for justice will not need to take place next year, because the necessary measures to get rid of the “the impunity law” will be taken:

No olvidamos ni perdonamos a los asesinos de ayer, pero tampoco nos congraciamos con los traidores de hoy. Ojala que el próximo año no sea necesaria la marcha, ojala que el mayo del 2011 nos encuentre con esta ley caduca ya anulada. Pero si llega mayo y nos encuentra igual que hoy, ojala que decidamos quebrar el silencio… que ya va siendo hora.

Let's neither forget nor forgive the murderers of yesterday, but let us also not favor the traitors of today. Hopefully next year, the march will not be necessary, I hope that May of 2011 finds us with this law annulled. But if May comes and finds us like we are today, I hope we decide to break the silence … it is about time for that.

Twenty-one-year-old Victoria from Uruguay posted the poem Desparecidos [es] (The Disappeared) by Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti on her blog. A blogger under the name Master of Puppetz [es] commented on Victoria’s post saying,

Ojalá me equivoque, pero tengo tan poca esperanza en que algún día sabremos que pasó con todas estas personas. Ayer participé en mi ciudad junto con mi madre (que tiene un tío desaparecido) de la marcha en cuestión. Solidaridad, dolor en algunas caras, una mezcla de feas sensaciones se veía en las caras de algunas personas, espero se sepa algún día, de corazón, lo dudo.

Eso si, que esto NUNCA MÁS suceda

I hope I'm wrong, but I have so little hope that someday we will know what happened to all these people. Yesterday I participated in the march in my city with my mother (who has an uncle who has disappeared). Solidarity, pain on some faces, an ugly mixture of feelings could be seen on the faces of some people, I hope that someday we will know, in my heart, I doubt it.

One thing is for sure, that this should NEVER happen again.

Uruguay is one of the many Latin American countries still struggling with bringing violators of human rights during military dictatorships to justice. As relatives of the disappeared grow older, many fear that younger generations will not be as active in pursuing justice on the matter; however, the more than 10,000 people of all ages that marched this year –as reported on the national press [es] — and the interest of young bloggers like Victoria signals that the fight for justice in Uruguay will not be over any time soon.

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