The Monday after we arrived, we began our internship at the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria (CPM), where we were welcomed with open arms. This first week was an introduction to the organization’s mission, as well as the different teams we could work with. We also had the honor of hearing the stories of two women whose siblings had disappeared during the dictatorship. This was one of the most impactful moments I’ve had this trip. Prior to coming to Argentina, I had only surface knowledge about the dictatorships, and I don’t think I understood their impact on this country until I heard these stories from real people.
By the end of the week, I had a pretty good idea of which team I wanted to work with. I enjoyed learning about archiving and writing biographies for the desaparecidos (disappeared people), as well as the outreach possibilities that would come with the communications and culture team, but I knew I wanted something more hands-on. On Friday, after we finished touring the CPM museum, we all sat down to discuss which projects we wanted to do. I chose to work with the Committee against Torture, which protects the human rights of prisoners here in the province of Buenos Aires. I knew I would have the opportunity to form face-to-face relationships, which was the one goal I had when I accepted this internship. Plus, I would get to work with three different teams within the Committee, each of which would teach me new things.
We visited Buenos Aires for the first time that weekend. None of us had seen it before, so obviously our first stop was Plaza de Mayo, where the mothers of desaparecidos have marched each week for almost 30 years. Since we visited on July 9th, Argentina Independence Day, there were thousands of people in leftist political groups marching in the Plaza. I’ve never seen such a large protest before, and I was stunned by the sheer amount of people and the diversity of the protesters – young adults, older people, teenagers, mothers with their children. We met several people in the Plaza, including a couple we talked to for almost an hour about the political parties marching, education in the US and Argentina, tango, and more. Like everyone else I’ve met here, they were extremely gracious and welcoming, and I felt like I had known them for many years.
I spent my first week with the Committee Against Torture working with the team that receives reports of abuse and torture in prisons. At first, I felt overwhelmed by the number of prisoners and cases that the Committee works with on a daily basis, and how incredibly oppressed the prisoners are here. But we eased our way in by working together on a few cases. First, we uploaded interviews from prisoners into the CPM system so we could flag human rights violations. Then we uploaded the corresponding reports that the Committee’s legal team sent to the courts to resolve each of the violations. The interviews were difficult to read, but they allowed me to better understand the conditions inside the prison. Once I started working on my own, I was able to move through cases faster. It was the first time I felt like I was being productive and making at least some difference in the lives of the prisoners.
This week, I was able to settle into a routine and feel more comfortable with my host family. Then, I received some amazing news – that I have family here in Argentina. On Sunday of this week, I was able to meet some distant cousins (they share my last name, though!) that I never knew existed. It was incredible, and I feel much more connected to Argentina now that I know there is a piece of my family here.