UMass Boston News

UMass Boston Alumna Increases Public Access to History of Argentina’s “Disappeared Children”

Office of Communications | May 03, 2013
The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo searched for answers about their children and grandchildren in the 70s and 80s.

Rita Arditti Collection One of Several Recently Acquired Library Collections

A University of Massachusetts Boston alumna has helped expand access to an important archival collection at the Healey Library by transcribing interviews with women whose family members were kidnapped or killed during Argentina’s brutal Dirty War.

Doris Cristóbal, a recent graduate of the Latin American and Iberian Studies Department, transcribed a series of Spanish-language interviews with members of the human rights group Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo). The interviews were conducted in the 1990s by the late Argentinian activist Rita Arditti, whose materials were donated to UMass Boston in 2011.

Arditti’s interviews gave voice to a group of women searching for answers about the disappearance of their children and grandchildren between 1976 and 1983.

The children were kidnapped and given to government leaders, members of the military, and police; in some instances, they were executed.

“When they invited me to participate in the project about the abuelas, I thought that life, in an inexplicable way, was letting me know what I had to do,” said Cristobal, a native of Peru who lived in Buenos Aires for four years. “Once again I was linked to my beloved Argentina, and I accepted with all my heart.”

The new transcripts increase the access to the Rita Arditti Collection, housed at the Joseph P. Healey Library.

Arditti wrote about the grandmothers in her 1999 book, Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina. She did not leave any instructions about what to do with her interview materials before she died in 2009. Estelle Disch, emeritus professor of sociology at UMass Boston and the executor of Arditti’s estate, asked the interviewees what they wanted her to do with the materials.

“All thirteen of the grandmothers with whom I spoke wanted the interview made public in the grandmothers’ archives and in archives in the United States,” Disch wrote in an online introduction to the collection

“Those who wanted their interview placed in public archives believed that doing so would preserve their stories in their own voices for history, would provide first-person information to those grandchildren who might be identified after these particular grandmothers die; and would honor Rita’s work.”

The collection also included photographs and additional interviews conducted by Disch.

Ann Blum, chair of the Latin American and Iberian Studies Department, said there are several connections between Arditti and UMass Boston. Blum said Arditti was a frequent guest lecturer in her classes and a highlight for her students. In 2000, UMass Boston awarded honorary degrees to two members of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Estela Barnes de Carlotto and Rosa Tarlovsky de Roisinblit.

Joanne Riley, university archivist, says University Archives and Special Collections will now work with the Latin American and Iberian Studies Department to identify a student who can transcribe the interviews in English.

Other recently acquired library collections include the outtakes of the 1974 documentary Hearts and Minds, donated by director and producer Peter Davis; the records of Boston-based Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R); and 72,000 life insurance policies of Irish immigrants and their families dating back to 1879, donated by The Irish Ancestral Research Association (TIARA).

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