• Susana Kaiser
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Oral History book series


The year is 1998. Twenty-two years after the military coup that unleashed one of the bloodiest repressions that Argentina has ever experienced, I am in Buenos Aires, my hometown, researching memories of the horror I once witnessed firsthand. I walk into the National Museum of Fine Arts to see the exhibit of works by Mildred Burton, a renowned Argentine painter. Ten minutes later, I am practically frozen contemplating a painting. It’s the portrait of a woman who reminds me of Mona Lisa. Around her neck, a thin chain holds a quite unusual charm: a piece of a human finger. Who is she? Why is she wearing such a morbid necklace? The name of the painting answers my question: “The torturer’s mother.” I am transported back to the years of terror. While the generals and their accomplices orchestrated state terrorism and thousands of people were systematically and brutally kidnapped, disappeared, tortured, and killed, other Argentineans enjoyed an economic bonanza and traveled around the world. Like the mother in the painting, thousands of Argentineans adorned themselves with trophies without ever asking where they came from. They did not ask who was paying for their pleasures—the trips to Miami, the vacations in South Africa’s apartheid society (indeed an appropriate spot to take a break from the repression), and the endless shopping that gained them the nickname “I’ll take two.” Whether it was for condominiums in Brazil or Ray Ban sunglasses, the affluent upper middle class went on mad shopping sprees because they had more expendable income than ever, thanks to the economic policies implemented during the terror.


Public School High School Student Individual Interview Discussion Group Truth Commission 
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© Susana Kaiser 2005

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  • Susana Kaiser

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