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We would like to thank teacher, Erin Robbins, for sharing this resource with us:

The short story is called, “Beatriz, una palabra enorme” written by Mario Benedetti.  Erin keeps this story as an introduction to the unit since its themes connect so well.

We also thank Erin for sharing this short worksheet.

Chapter 2

In Chapter 2 the reader learns that Nick is training with his soccer team for the national tournament.   Soccer is arguably the most popular sport in Argentina. For more information on soccer in Argentina, you may wish to check out the Argentine National Soccer website. It contains tons of up-to-date information on Argentine soccer, including what is currently happening with the youth teams as well.

Chapter 3

In Chapter 3 Leslie reads some documents that help her gain an understanding of the historical events in Argentina that eventually led to what is now referred to as “La guerra sucia,” or “The Dirty War.” To gain a better understanding of these events, you may wish to read pages 52-54 of the book, “Eyewitness Travel: Argentina.” This book contains an excellent summary of the events and it has timelines that put the events in chronological order.

An excerpt of the book is available to read online.

You may also wish to view a timeline of Argentine history leading up to, and following, the Dirty War period.

Chapter 4

In chapter 4 we discover that Leslie’s editor tells her to be careful because as a journalist she would be taking a risk in reporting what was actually happening, if in fact the government was really behind the disappearances of people.  Robert Cox is a British journalist who worked as the editor of Buenos Aires Herald, an English-language newspaper functioning in Argentina during the time of the Dirty War.  As many other journalists kept quiet about human rights abuses due to fear of retaliation from the government, Robert Cox courageously reported what he was observing.

You may wish to view an interview with Mr. Cox as he talks about his experience as a reporter during the Dirty War.  You and your students may find this very interesting and informative.

Chapter 5

In Chapter 5 Leslie reads a letter written by Magdalena, the mother of a son who was ‘disappeared.’ The letter was originally written as a plea for help to the argentine press. Unfortunately, the argentine press often chose not to report on the disappearances of people for fear of retaliation from the government.

After the last chapter, you may have viewed the interview with Robert Cox. You may wish to read the article included here. It gives a great description of Robert Cox’s work reporting on what was happening in Argentina in a time when the Argentine newspapers were not able to report.

Chapter 6

In chapter 6 Leslie is horrified when she sees first-hand evidence of Raúl’s disappearance from viewing his apartment. In Argentina, although some of the desaparecidos were eventually found, many were never seen again by their family and friends. The Dirty War is something that continues to affect the people of Argentina. You may wish to check out this link, where Peter Eisner, an editorial consultant, comments on this time in history.

In 2009, photographer Gustavo Germano paid homage to the desaparecidos with a powerful exhibition where he used old photographs of family and friends and juxtaposed them with current photographs of the same people, in the same locations, minus the disappeared people. You may wish to check out this link to a powerful slideshow of his photo exhibition.

Chapter 7

In Capítulo 7 Leslie learns about a group of women named, Las Abuelas/Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, made up of the mothers and grandmothers of ‘los desaparecidos.’ For a brief history of the formation, purpose and practices of this group of courageous women, click here.

A lengthier summary of the formation of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo is found on their current website. Here you will find all sorts of information about the group including current events articles and a gallery of photos. For more news about the madres, read this article about their 43 years of fighting for justice.

Teacher Note: As a “Beyond-the-Text Activity” you may wish to view actual ‘Pancartas’, or placards, made by real-life Abuelas y Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. These Pancartas represent the lives and circumstances under which their loved ones disappeared. Many make a plea for information on their whereabouts and demand that justice to be done. Search “pancartas madres de la plaza de mayo”

How to assemble the booklet included in the TG for Chapter 7:

Chapter 8

When Leslie sees the protest of the Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo she learns that children and even babies were among the people ‘disappeared’ by the Argentine government. She also learns that some of these babies were taken into the families of the very military officials that tortured and killed their biological parents. Many such children grew up believing that their parents’ killers were actually their own adopted parents, and recently the truth has been made known to them.

You may wish to read this New York Times article about a woman, Victoria Montenegro, who is one such child of an Argentine ‘disappeared’ couple.

This is a wonderful collection of animated videos which tell the stories of many of the “nietos” who were found by their birth families. Very compelling and well-done! There are many videos in this 2-season collection!

Chapter 9

In Capítulo 9 Leslie has a conversation with an Argentine General about the allegations concerning the disappearances of people in Argentina. The General denies that the government has anything to do with it. In all actuality, this was not the case.

In recent times, cases have been re-opened against government officials from the time of the Argentine ‘Dirty War’ period. To find out more, you may wish to do an internet search about these cases.   You can check out the following links to get you started:

Dirty War General Found Guilty

Argentine ‘dirty war’ general gets life sentence

Chapter 10

In this chapter, Raúl tells that he was taken to ESMA, a secret government detention center. For more information on the 340 secret detention centers used by the Argentine government, you may wish to check out this link. The page contains a map of the many known detention centers, as well as an interesting link at the top of the page giving information about CONADEP, the National Commission on the Disappeared.

Raúl describes his time at ESMA and the torture that he endured because he was supposedly a ‘subversive’ trying to undermine the Argentine government. There are many accounts given by survivors of the secret detention centers describing what happened to them in government custody. This link leads to many such accounts from survivors. Please pre-read them and decide if they are appropriate to be read by your students as many contain graphic details of torture and mistreatment. These accounts can be read in Spanish or English.

The song, They Dance Alone, by Sting (Ellas danzan solas) is dedicated to the mothers of the diappeared during the Pinochet regime in Chile, but the theme is very applicable to this reader!

Chapter 11

The events of Capítulo 11 take place in ESMA, an Argentine Navy training school located in the center of Buenos Aires. Leslie is surprised to learn that the secret detention/torture center is so centrally located in the middle of the capital. To learn more about the ESMA, you may wish to watch this video. The video provides a look at the ESMA, as well as an excellent summary of many of the facets of the Dirty War mentioned in the novel.

Chapter 12

In Capítulo 12 the reader becomes aware that Leslie would never been seen again. She is captured by the Military Junta because she is about to compose a story that would prove that the government is behind the mysterious disappearances of argentine citizens.

On March 25, 1977, an Argentine journalist, Rodofo Walsh, was killed by the government for his political views and open writing about the events transpiring in the country. Walsh was killed by the military one day after he published a work entitled, “Carta Abierta de un escritor a la Junta Militar,” or “Open letter from an author to the Military Junta.” To learn more about Rodolfo Walsh you may wish to begin your study by reading the article about him here.

Article  Argentina cerró 2017 con 198 nuevas condenas por delitos de lesa humanidad

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