Human Rights

Decompressing with Tuti in Lujan de Cuyo

Photo taken from back seat of a man with gray hair in an orange checked shirt driving and a woman in a red shirt with medium length gray hair in passenger seat.  In the distance you can see the lower ranges of the Andes Mountains
Tuti took us on a drive to the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

I was surprised to find out that I took so few pictures when we visited Michael’s friend Tuti Berlak. Because I remember my time with her and her daughter Maia was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

On the night before we flew to Mendoza from Buenos Aires. I finally took my braids down from the wedding hairdo. I had discovered, as the bruise from my fall in Medellin faded, that I had a hematoma in the center of the bruise (and still have it as of this writing), which explains why it hurt so much to move that thigh muscle. When I googled around to find out info about hematomas, I discovered that you’re not supposed to fly with them. I had already taken three flights , but thought I should check in with my doctor. He told me to take 325 mg of aspirin—which means I was kind of nauseous for the rest of my trip.

Mendoza is a city near the foothills of the Andes, and is cooler than Buenos Aires. Lujan de Cuyo, where Tuti and her daughter Maia live, is even closer, so the weather is cooler yet, although warm by our standards during the day. Here’s the view flying in:

Tuti has an interesting history. Like many of Michael’s friends from Tel Aviv University and Kerem Shalom, she left Argentina during the Dirty War. In the late 1970s, she left for Mexico, where she met her ex and they ended up in jail for because of their political activities against the Argentinian military regime. The Israeli Embassy got Tuti out, but her ex was Argentinian and had no one to advocate for him. While he was in jail, he made this plaque and gave it to Michael as a gift, which we have in our small collection of Che Guevara tchotchkes.1 Mexico deported them both as political exiles to Sweden. Before they split they had their two daughters, Anahi and Maia. Tuti moved back to Argentina.

She now lives near the her parents’ summer cottage. Below is the view outside of her current home. Even though this post will be shorter than the others, I think my time with Tuti and her daughter Maia was one of my favorite parts of the trip. They are relaxing people, and sitting on the porch with them and their two big old dogs, was just what I needed.

Tuti’s daughter Anahi is an artist and the room where we slept was full of her mosaics. Below are some of her instagram photos of the pieces in our bedroom, following a picture of herself. You also might want to check out her Instagram feed.

In both Uruguay and Argentina we learned the importance of mate (pronounced MAH-tay). On the plane to Montevideo, we sat across from a guy who asked the flight attendant to fill his thermos with hot water, and then sipped for the rest of the flight. Tuti told us the that Argentinian stereotype Uruguayans as always walking around with a thermos in one arm and a mate cup in the other.

Although Sandra had given me a few sips of her mate , I really learned how to drink it with Tuti. You fill the cup with dry leaves and then push them back with a bombilla until there is a small space to pour water. Then you sip the water with the dual purpose bombilla like the ones below.

5 metal straws with objects at end for mashing dried leaves in tea
Mariano-J, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuti told us that the drinking mate is meant to be done socially, with everyone sharing the same cup. At the height of the Covid pandemic, when she went to meetings, people brought their own cups, but she said it wasn’t the same. Mate is an acquired taste. It’s bitter, like coffee and tea, but I acquired it.

woman with sleeveless blue top and gray hair prepares cup of mate.
Tuti telling us about mate with Maia in the background.

Before we left, reluctantly, on my part, anyway, I decided it was time for the last remnants of the wedding hairdo to go away. For our departure to Chile from the Mendoza airport the next morning, I was wearing my normal braids.

  1. Michael wishes me to point out that tchotchkes are called chochchadas in Nicaraguan Spanish. He also thinks the fact that we have a Dome of the Rock replica made by a Palestinian political prisoner means we have a collection of political prisoner tchotchkes. ↩︎

ESMA Museum and Site of Memory

Photo of  white building with four pillars.  On the top is written "Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada."  A blue banner drops down between the two left pillars reading, "Espacio para la Memorial"

The Armed Forces of Argentina installed the first ESMA (School of Navy Mechanics) institutions in 1975. Despite the name, the military/security state always intended to use them as clandestine centers for the torture, interrogation, rape, illegal detention and murder of people whom they deemed not worthy of membership in society. They accomplished all these atrocities with the help of U.S. tax dollars.

As I said when I wrote about Uruguay’s Museum of Memory, the museum in Buenos Aires reflects a more professional use of designers and certainly a greater availability of funds. But the dictatorship had these detention centers all over Argentina, and people in other regions have set up smaller memory museums in their locations as well..

I took the below pictures of these exhibits on the outside of the museum, because they have English at the bottom, explaining what happened inside. If you click on them, you should be able to read the explanations. We saw the stencil commemorating Tomas Canataro on the outside of the building. I wondered if he had been a union leader, journalist, or some famous Argentinian dissident.

But when I looked him up in the Museum archives, I saw the following,

So what had he done to incur the displeasure of the authorities? Did he have friends or family members they were looking for? Had someone overheard him criticizing the government? Who put up the stencil? His children?

“Presente” is something sung at memorial services to indicate that the deceased are still a part of the living and remain in their hearts and minds. Every year, hundreds of people sing it as people call out the names of those killed by trainees at the School of the Americas (which include Argentinian Officers) in Fort Bending, Georgia. It was one of the most spiritual protests I ever participated in.

We went inside the Central Pavilion, where Navy students had done their exercise. It is now dedicated to the 30,000 kidnapped, tortured, murdered and disappeared Argentinians. If the museum has a central theme it is to “undisappear” people. The dictatorship sought to sow terror among the population by making people disappear—and it considered them disposable, worth less than animals. The museum puts their faces everywhere, and includes their thumbnail histories to bring them back to life.

You will see I had some trouble getting all the faces on the windows, because the wall is so long.

Also around the room were testimonies before the Argentine Human Rights Commission of three women who managed to survive their time in ESMA.

Outside the Pavilion were exhibits of activists who wanted to make Argentina a more just and humane place. When I saw Patricia Roisenblit, I thought maybe the family’s name, was changed from Michael’s family name generations ago: Rosenblatt. However, now I think it’s more likely that it derives from Rosenblüt/Rosenbluth. Anyway, as I was googling around, I came across the name of Rosa Tarkovsky de Roisinblit, she was one of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and was a founder of Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Patricia was 8 months pregnant when she and her husband were disappeared. The Air Force Commander who kidnapped, tortured and killed the couple received a sentence of 25 years. The Air Force Civilian worker who took the baby, knowing where it had come from, received a sentence of 12 years. Rosa is alive and 104 years old.

I wanted to take pictures of all the activists, but as I looked down the long walk I knew that I could spend all day doing so.

However, one of the activists in particular stood out to me for some reason, possibly because the details of her life seemed like they could have been those of any kind-hearted person. Possibly because her face looks vaguely familiar, like someone I could have gone to school with. She grew up in a house with a garden, and her little sister remembers her as a friend and protector. She was youth minister in a Methodist church. The kids in her group gave her a Mafalda doll because of her brown frizzy hair and because she wanted to change the world for the better.

At the university, she was not as interested in participating in political activities as she was in working with poor children and listening to workers and homemakers. She later joined the Peronist Youth party, where she met Reuben Stockdale. Her sister remembers them always having noisy, lively debates together. They both worked in a textile factory for a while, presumably to be closer to the workers for whom they were advocating.

The authorities kidnapped Inés as she left work in 1976. She was two months pregnant. Reuben, who should have fled the country, as people associated with disappeared people typically did, decided to remain in Argentina and look for her. He was kidnapped in 1977. They both remain disappeared.

Inés Cobo. ¡Presente!

We next went to a small building dedicated to the Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo, whom I have mentioned in previous blogs

In addition to their regular Thursday public witnesses at the plaza, Grandmothers of the Plaza Del Mayo began Marches of Resistance in 1981. The atrocities were becoming more widely known internationally, and they wanted to keep up the pressure. Each march had a theme. RETURN OF THE LIVING CHILDREN TO THEIR FAMILIES “With our lives we carried them. With our lives, we love them.” RETURN OF THE DETAINEES-DISAPPEARED/ PUNISHMENT FOR THE GUILTY “The Plaza [belongs to] the Mothers and not to the cowards.” AGAINST THE LAW OF AMNESTY FOR THE APPEARANCE OF THE LIVING DETAINEES-DISAPPEARED. “There were no mistakes, there were no excesses. There were only the murderers in the military [who were part of] the process.”

And as always, the pictures of the abducted stare the visitor in the face. The museum refuses to let them disappear.

The military, in a sadistic form of execution that extended torture to the very end, often killed its captives by flying them over the River Platte or the ocean and dropping them from the plane or helicopter, hands and feet bound, into the water.1 They referred to these prisoners as “transfers.” Sandra told us she remembers the bodies washing up on the beaches of Uruguay.

I took this picture outside the museum. Apple photos only identifies it as being in the Nuñez neighborhood, where the museum is located. It says, “A tribute to the popular 2activists, the detainees disappeared by state terrorism in the ESMA neighborhood. Memory and Justice. March 24, 2013.”

As I’ve prepared this blog post I’ve reflected on the proxy war that the U.S. and the Soviet Union fought on the continents of Latin America, Africa and Asia for decades, leaving behind a legacy of torture, slaughter and other atrocities. On the part of the U.S. it was all in the name of fighting communism.

I am almost certain that most of the powerbrokers in the U.S. who sent money and weapons to the Argentine junta never read Marx’s Communist Manifesto or Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, regarded as the foundation of Capitalism. Marx literally believed that workers should control the means of production, that is, they should make all the decisions about how a factory, farm, etc. is run, and all the profits should be split between them. He did not believe that the state should control the means of production.

Adam Smith believed that productive labor creates wealth, and self-interest motivates people to put their resources to best use. But before he wrote Wealth of Nations, he wrote The Theory of the Moral Sentiments in which he describe a social system that would ensure justice and welfare for all. He always assumed that people had read the earlier book as a companion to the later book. When he visited India, and saw the misery that the British East India Company inflicted on workers in the textile mills, he wrote that to prohibit a people,

“Adam Smith and the British East India Company: A Perspective on Competitiveness.” Tax Justice Network, 30 Apr. 2015,

Thus, predatory Capitalism, according to Adam Smith, is not Capitalism at all.

Communism and Capitalism are simply economic systems devised by two well-meaning men who wanted people to thrive. Authoritarianism was never part of the package. Treating workers like dirt was never part of the package. Creating hundreds of new billionaires, while the middle and working classes become ever more impoverished was never part of the package.

Acts 2:44-45 says that the first Christians “held all things in common,” which essentially means they were communists. I guess Priscilla and Aquila, the tentmakers who mentored Paul in Acts 18 were tentmakers, so I guess that makes them capitalists–or communists if they shared profits with Paul equally. It doesn’t matter much.

But committing atrocities against human beings over economic ideologies does matter

Epilogue: Patricia Erb, daughter of Mennonite missionaries in Argentina was kidnapped while she was a student at the University of Buenos Aires. Her statement to the U.S. State Department, began,

Because she was a U.S. citizen, the Embassy obtained her release. When she returned to the States, she made it her mission to tell as many people as possible what was going on in Argentina. A friend of mine at Bluffton College heard one of her talks, and said she talked about her rape by one of the Argentine soldiers. As he was raping her, she noticed a gold cross around his neck. She told him she was a Christian, and asked him how he, a fellow Christian, could be doing this to her. He stopped. But so many more soldiers wearing crosses did not.

Photo of Patricia Erb who recently received an honorary doctorate from Vancouver Island University

  1. Flying from Montevideo to Buenos Aires to was essentially a flight over the Rio Platte River basin. It looks like an ocean from the air. ↩︎
  2. “Popular,” in this context isn’t about trends. It means “of the people,” often used to refer to peasants or the working classes. In this case, it refers to those who struggled for the rights of all people in Argentina to live with dignity, receive fair wages, and be regarded as equals to everyone else in Argentina. ↩︎

First Two Days in Buenos Aires

At the Buenos Aires Airport, I noticed that the junk food had labels warning of health risks. The labels on the chocolate bar, for example, warn that it has too much sugar, fat, saturated fat, and too many calories.

Since we arrived too early to check into our apartment, a cousin of our new son-in-law, Eric, allowed us to drop our luggage at his apartment building. This pleasant yard is on the roof of his building.

As we walked around looking for a place to eat, we noticed some street art, mostly used for advertising.

Also Argentinians taking dancing lessons on the street.

The drink Michael ordered at the place we stopped for lunch had yet another warning. Because it contained artificial sweeteners, children should not drink it. I wondered why they would name a soft drink, “to be.”

We stopped at the AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association—the equivalent of Jewish Community Centers in the U.S) which had strict security outside, because of the July 18, 1994 bombing that killed 85 people and injured 300. Ansar Allah, a Palestinian front for Hezbollah, claimed responsibility for the attack However the investigation into the incident was incompetent, and driven by political interests, so today it’s not really “solved,” as such.

We had made an appointment to visit the Jewish museum ahead of time. Turns out, they are very picky about who they let in. A couple from Ithaca, NY wanted to visit but they had only copies of their passports, and that was not sufficient. Pro-tip: I have traveled to five continents and I have never found authorities in any countries who found a photocopy of a passport valid for identification.

In the first room was a permanent art installation meant to indicate a Shabbat family dinner for missing people. Originally, it had shown photos of people who had disappeared during the Dirty War, but now the photos are of Israelis Hamas is holding hostage in Gaza.

Maurycy Minkowski

A small room displayed a temporary exhibit of the works by the artist Maurycy Minkowski. Famous for painting on themes of immigration, Minkowski eventually ended up in Buenos Aires, “where,” the exhibit notes without further explanation, “he lost his life tragically.” Of course I wanted to find out what actually happened to him and found the following on Wikipedia. An illness had left him deaf as a child, but he got the education he needed to work as an artist in Europe:

Brief summaries of significant eras for the Argentinian Jewish community.

First, massive waves of immigration took place between 1889 and 1930, for the same reasons that Jews were fleeing to the United States and other countries. The pogroms in Russia and Eastern European countries made emigration a life and death matter.

In the Decade of Infamy, marked by a 1930 coup, Great Depression, electoral fraud to keep conservative parties in power and another coup in 1943, were a time of rising antisemitism. Juan Peron, who was a colonel in the army that overthrew the government in 1943, was a sympathizer of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.

Under the first Peronist government, antisemitism rose sharply, but it did in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as well. Despite Peron’s fascism, he appointed Jews to positions in the government and passed a law allowing Jewish army privates to celebrate Jewish holidays while they were serving in the military. U.S. Ambassador George Messersmith said, after a visit to Argentina in 1947, “There is not as much social discrimination against Jews here as there is right in New York or in most places at home….” Historian Raanan Rein has noted, ” “Fewer anti-Semitic incidences took place in Argentina during Perón’s rule than during any other period in the 20th century.” Frequent coup d’etats occurred in the 1950s-60s. Fragile civilian governments rose and fell. An urban guerrilla group who expressed an affinity for Nazi ideals, the Tacuara Nationalist Movemen,t opposed secular society and liberal democracy:

In 1973, Peron returned to power. He died in office, and his widow, Isabella Peron succeeded him. The army, led by Commander-in-Chief General Jorge Rafael Videla, overthrew her government in 1976. Thus began the bloodiest episode in Argentina’s modern history, which the next blog post will cover. Cabildo a Catholic Church publication peddled antisemitic tropes heavily during the dictatorship. It falsely asserted that 3 million Jews lived in Argentina when the number was a tenth of that. Even though Jews represented only 2% of Argentina’s population, they were more than 10% of those the Argentine Secret Service kidnapped and disappeared. A lot of Michael’s friends at Tel Aviv University were young people from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay who had fled the coup regimes in those countries.

The final placard talks about the democratic reopening of Argentina.

The museum’s synagogue has four marble memorials for mass casualties that Argentina’s Jewish community has suffered over the years. Two list the names of those killed and disappeared under the “Argentinian Dirty War” from 1974-1983. Another lists the name of 29 killed during the Israeli Embassy bombing in 1992, although there appear to be more than 29 names on it, and I cannot read the brass plate from the picture. The fourth records the 85 who died in the July 1994 bombing.

After our visit to the Jewish museum, we headed out to the Plaza de Mayo, the scene of some of the momentous events in Argentinian history. The Palacio Rosado (Pink Palace) houses Argentina’s seat of government. The backlit pyramid was erected to commemorate Argentina’s 1811 revolution against Spain. That square rock lists the names of the soldiers who died in the pivotal battle of Tucumán, during Argentina’s War of Independence.

Political protest has also characterized the history of the Plaza. The Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo probably deserve the biggest accolades for the length of the their protests—so long they are now the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. They wore scarves made from their children’s diapers initially, which evolved into plain white scarves on which they embroidered the names of their children whom the army had disappeared. Meeting weekly at the Plaza de Mayo, they demanded that the government return their children. “You took them alive; we want them back alive,” was one of their chants. They also deserve accolades for their bravery.The military kidnapped, tortured and murdered some of the Mothers, as well as French nuns who supported them, but more mothers kept joining the group in the Plaza every week.

The black base extols heroes from Argentina’s War of Independence from Spain, but I like what someone has added at the end: “For all the dead human beings, and those who struggled to save them.” The Hebrew reads,

I was trying to figure out what all the the rocks were doing at the base of the pyramid erected to celebrate Argentina’s Independence, and then I realized that the people designated on the rocks had all died in 2020-21. Apparently, they remained from a protest regarding how the Argentinian government had handled the Covid epidemic.

At the end of the day as we took a taxi back to the apartment where we were staying, we noticed our driver had a quotation by Martin Luther King on the back of his seat: “It is always the right time to do the right thing.” It seemed an appropriate way to end the day.

Two days in Uruguay

L. Sandra, M. Gabi, Sandra’s niece visiting from Spain, R. Michael

Michael met Sandra at his kibbutz, Kerem Shalom, in the 1980s. A dedicated socialist and an exile from the Uruguayan dictatorship she wanted to experience the socialism as practiced by the kibbutz movement in Israel. She later returned to Uruguay for various reasons and abhors the current state of Israeli politics.

Our first day after landing, Sandra took us out to a restaurant built over a tunnel that Tupamaro guerrillas had dug to free political prisoners held in the Punto Carretas Prison.

Note that I still have my hair-do from the wedding. Summer was heading into fall in Uruguay, and the weather was warm and humid. However, Uruguayos do not seem to consume the amount of liquids that the weather required. I had not drunk half that glass of passion fruit lemonade. That’s the amount the waitress served us.

We then walked to the prison which has become…a shopping mall, complete with McDonalds and Starbucks. Yes, it is disgusting. Sandra, who worked at a municipal office nearby, said that for a long time she avoided walking over to Punto Carretas to make photocopies. Dissidents trying to reclaim the long history of democracy in Uruguay had spent years of their lives here, suffering torture and humiliation, all so young Urugayos1 could enjoy their Big Macs and Mochaccinos there one day.

What remains to indicate that Punto Carretas was once a prison are the tiny windows common to most prisons, and a couple explanatory placards. I’ve added a picture of a cell at a federal prison in Oregon for comparison. The memorial for the prisoners and their families did not go up until 2018. On the back, the text says that the these placards are dedicated to the families of the prisoners because of what they endured over the years when their loved ones were in prison, and lists the ex-prisoners responsible for erecting this modest memorial.

Afterwards, Sandra took us up to the top of City Hall, 20 stories tall, where visitors may see a panorama of Montevideo. Of course, I was also interested in the plants. The attraction featured a little café, where we bought drinks, and Sandra bought us each a bonbon.

Across Latin America, Salvador Allende is regarded as a martyr of the Cold War. The people of Chile elected him in a free and fair election, but because he was a socialist, Henry Kissinger famously said, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” The U.S. thus supported a military coup against Allende. Tens of thousands of Chileans were imprisoned, tortured and disappeared2 over the next 17 years and the economy, which had improved the lives of ordinary Chileans under Allende, immediately tanked, with inflation spiraling to 376 percent.

Isabel Allende asked Sandra to be the representative of the Allende family in Uruguay. The Salvador Allende Society in Montevideo, of which she is a member, installed this small plaza in his honor. (Dusk had set in, so I apologize for the dimness of the photos.) The quotation on the plaque comes from Allende’s final radio address, which he broadcast as the Chilean airforce was bombing the presidential palace on September 11, 1973.

Apparently, Allende was a Freemason. Michael had attended a Freemason convention in Rochester as a translator for a Nicaraguan relative who was also a Freemason and heard them expressing reactionary conservative political views, but evidently Freemasons can also be socialists. George Washington, Simón Bolivar, Thurgood Marshall, Richard Pryor, John Glenn, and Salvador Allende. Who knew?

The next day, before we went to the Museum of Memory, Sandra told us of her (underground) work to bring the children of Uruguayan exiles from Europe in 1983 to visit their parents in prison, or simply to know their family still in Chile. The mass group of 154 children—aged 3 and 17 years old—traveled alone to Montevideo. They arrived to cheering crowds chanting, “Tus padres volverán!” (Your parents will return), which became the title of a 2015 documentary film about the event. The filmmakers interviewed six adults about the impact the trip had had on them. In several cases, it was not positive. One boy considered his Dutch stepfather his real father, because he had been just a toddler when he left, and his Chilean father’s desperate overtures to assert his fatherhood were painful to him as an adult. For another boy, prison had turned his father into an angry, abusive person, and he wanted nothing to do with him or Uruguay. He eventually moved back to Denmark and raised his family there.

Watching the film with Sandra added a lot to the experience, because she supplemented the narrative with background.. She also kept pointing out a little boy she was in charge of while he was in the country. The visit of the children was a factor in the fall of the dictatorship in 1985, Sandra said, because the junta and the rest of the country saw how much popular support there was for prisoners and those in exile. When the children returned to Europe, she went with them, because she guessed the junta knew about her involvement in the event and she would be safer there.

We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon at the Museum of Memory, which the founders laid out as a park, complete with playground. The banners in the front are protesting lack of municipal support for museum workers.

When you enter, the first room tells you about the first days of coup in 1973, the people killed, and the protests against it. A pro-junta newspaper, Macha, put out and edition with the headline, “IT IS NOT A DICTATORSHIP.” Pro tip: if you have to tell people it’s not a dictatorship, it’s a dictatorship. Also note the Social Credo put out by the Uruguayan Methodist church, which denounced political repression, among other things. They were extremely brave to do so.

If you enlarge the photo with the QR code and scan it, you will find the story of Susana Pintos, one of the students killed by state repression between 1968 and 1985.

As is the case with all authoritarian governments—Communist, Fascist or Monarchical—artists who dissent from the official narrative at best find their work banned and at worst end up dead. If you want to see some of the musicians whom the Uruguayan ruling junta banned, scan the QR code. On the Jose Carbajal album, he recorded songs by musicians whom the government had disappeared.

On April 21, 1974 Uruguayan Armed Forces and police shot several rounds of ammunition into the house where Diana Maidanik (21), Silvia Reyes (21 and 6 months pregnant), and Laura Raggio (19) were sleeping, killing all three. The counterinsurgent military–police Joint Forces said they were looking for Reyes’s husband and falsely claimed that the women had died in a confrontation. Uruguayans refer to the incident as the “muchachas de abril,” or “girls of April.”

Other rooms of the museum displayed various items from prison. The small handwritten item propped on the rusty tin is A History of the Vietnamese Communist Party, written out on cigarette rolling papers. The letter is addressed to a woman named Amanda who was in charge of the children who visited their parents in prison, which was often a frightening experience for them (Amanda did not seem to make it better.)

Prisoners often spent time making little gifts for their families at home, with whatever materials they had available. However, the pink and blue handkerchief was sent from Switzerland to a prisoner, and the prison authorities refused it. Years later, it found its way to her, however due to the diligence of a Swiss postmaster.

An estimated 500,000 Uruguayans fled the country during the 17 years of dictatorship. In their exile, they helped to build international solidarity for imprisoned Uruguayans and those who had disappeared. Swedish activists, in particular, noticed that the plight of those living under the Argentinean and Chilean dictatorships received more attention, and decided to take up the cause of Uruguayans.

Here’s a display on the children who went into exile and the visit that Sandra helped organize for children in Europe to visit Chile.

Most of those killed in Uruguay by the government or its proxies were never found, and Uruguayans today still hold protests, demanding information on what happened to them. (The military government granted itself amnesty before turning over the government to democratic elections in 1985. Some of the highest profile military officers eventually faced trial, but the people below them who carried out their orders died not.) These processions happen in complete silence, with participants holding photographs of the missing people as they walk. The poster below records the 2022 “March of Silence.”

When we were visiting, the museum’s Board of Directors was meeting. Sandra said they were all involved with the struggle some way. Perhaps some fought with the Tupamaro guerrillas (who eventually became a political party), or spent time in prison, or became exiles, or were family members of disappeared people. In any case, they were delighted we were visiting and plied us with delicious cheesy snacks.

The pots and pans represent a traditional form of protest in which everyone comes out of their homes for a few minutes and beats on pans as loud as they can to show their displeasure with the government.

According to Wikipedia,

Michael and I would go on to see Museums of Memory in Argentina and Chile. They looked more professional, developed by designers and architects, but at the museum in Montevideo, you could feel the beating hearts of the people behind it. In 1973, the entire population of Uruguay was about 3 million, and half lived in Montevideo. That’s a bit less than the population of Chicago. And I can kind of see the people of Chicago putting together a museum like this, when they knew their resources would be limited.

After the museum, we went to the market to eat at a seafood restaurant, where I had eel for the first time. (Meh.) On the way, we passed this building, and I realized we had arrived during Carnival.

On the way back to Sandra’s, I took pictures of graffiti, because that’s a thing now for me. The signs read, “What is your escape action? and “Philosophy is so dangerous.”

Almost forgot, the national dish of Uruguay is the chivito, a sandwich with ham, bacon, cheese, beef, hardboiled egg, and tomato with variations. “Heart attack in a bun” translates into Spanish as “Ataque al corazón en un bollo.”

When we arrived several days later in Mendoza, Argentina, our friend there told us “Uruguayans are just so”—she then hugged herself and rocked back and forth. We agreed. They’re very nice, and Montevideo is a very pleasant place to visit.

  1. In Uruguay and Argentina, the consonant “y” sound is pronounced “sh”, so, “Uruguashos.”

  2. In Spanish, when they speak of the authorities “disappearing” someone, it means that they have kidnapped, probably tortured and almost always killed that person. ↩︎

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends tour, Part VI

Final Leg of the Journey: Florida, Georgia, Carolinas, Virginia, Home

I’ll explain below.

Our first stop on the way out of Florida. We knew that Jacksonville had plenty of Civil Rights history, but we basically did a drive-by shooting of the James Weldon Johnson Park. He was the author of Lift Every Voice and Sing. Below was the shot; I’m posting full size for ease of reading.

Limited Demographic Productions

Our next stop was Brunswick, Georgia. What do you think when you see this neighborhood below?

Nothing impressive, right? Quiet suburban neighborhood. On February 23, 2020, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan stalked Ahmaud Arbery as he went on a run through this neighborhood and killed him. We used Google maps to find the spot where he died near the street signs above. Our car is parked in front of it. We expected to find a small memorial as you see for fatal auto accidents, but all we saw was the withered flowers above. We left stones as is done in the Jewish tradition, which we had picked up in Selma. You can see them in the picture.

Next, a whirlwind stop in Savannah, Georgia, home to the largest slave auction ever to take place in the U.S. It was also the home to the well-organized Savannah Protest Movement.

By 1964 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to visit Savannah, he called it the most desegregated city in the South. This was largely in part to the work of hundreds of teenagers and young adults who protested and boycotted during the Civil Rights Movement. Not only did the students boycott Broughton St. and hold sit-ins at local restaurants and department store lunch counters (Figure 1), but they also held wade-ins on the segregated beaches at Tybee Island, kneel-ins at white churches, ride-ins on buses, and stand-ins at movie theaters.[i]  They fought for equality in all aspects of lif

Ravi gets wounded

Michael parked illegally in a loading zone, I ran across the intersection pictured below to the former Levy’s Department Store/current community college and snapped a picture of the plaque. Took less than five minutes.

We were very pleased with the comfort and performance of our new Rav4 plug-in hybrid on this trip, although I have to say it still floors me that I am driving a vehicle more expensive than the house I grew up in. Therefore, I am sad that Gorilla tape is currently holding its bumper together. The plaque about the slave auction is located in a small wedge of a park in a residential neighborhood with limited parking. As Michael tried to maneuver out of his spot, he caught the bumper on a very low flatbed trailer. We tried putting the notches and tabs back together, but a couple of hours later, as we were driving to Columbia, SC to spend the night, we heard scraping and weird wind noises. Pulled over to a truck stop/mini-mart, and saw the bumper had come apart, and rubber and fabric stuff was hanging down beneath the engine. We got some tape in the mini-mart and tried to pull out the stuff that was hanging down. A kind trucker with tools then helped us out.

The trucker (from New Jersey) said the rubber thing isn’t essential. We hope he is right. We made it home without further incidents, but poor Ravi 😢

Our last stop in Harrisonburg, VA

I actually have five book projects I’m juggling right now. But two of the top three include Tony’s memoir (see Part V: St. Petersburg/Tampa), and the one I’m working on with Lisa Schirch about Mennonite collaboration with Nazis during the Third Reich. I also thought the note on her dryer was funny.

Thus ended our 3 and 1/2 week saga.

Final Thoughts

A unifying theme of the trip was that in every southern city, young people organized and served as the nonviolent foot soldiers in voting rights movement and against segregation. If they were here today they would be part of the Movement for Black Lives. If young people in the Movement for Black Lives had been born in the 1950s and 60s, they would have been the ones on the stools at Woolworths, in the swimming pool in St. Augustine, with the freedom riders on the buses.

The question for us: are we going to be part of today’s Civil Rights Movement or let the smears of craven politicians and media pundits turn us around?

And finally, more than once I was sad that I couldn’t share these experiences with my father, who died on New Year’s weekend this year. He met Fannie Lou Hamer and participated in a voter registration drive in Mississippi in the 1960s. He was also my most loyal blog reader.

I took this on the New York State turnpike as I drove out to visit my stepmother, Sharon. Finished March 21, 2022 at her house.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part V

One last stop in Georgia, then all around Florida

From the ACCORD Civil Rights Museum in St. Augustine, FL

After Montgomery, we headed to Lake City, FL for some downtime with my college friends Paula and Mark, but we decided to do a quick stop in Albany (pronounced al-BAENY), GA on the way. Using a willingness to face mass arrest, the Albany Movement had the ambitious goal of desegregating the entire city using the strategy of mass arrests. Sheriff Pritchett just kept sending them to jails within a 200-mile radius of Albany. Dr. King considered Albany a failure, but within two years of these arrests, the town was desegregated. Cynthia, our guide at the museum, was surprised that anyone had thought it a failure.

Cynthia kind of interfered with our plans to do a quick look around and then travel on to Lake City, five hours away. However, since she was brand new at the job, and we were the only people in the museum we didn’t have the heart to tell her we didn’t need a guide. When the time got to about an hour later than we had planned to leave, we had to tell her we weren’t going to tour the church, but we did get a selfie with her.

The sun was very bright. Cynthia does not have squinty eyes. She gave us the address of another good soul food restaurant: Flossie’s Soul Food Restaurant
2004 E Oglethorpe Blvd, Albany, GA
I was still full from eating at Antoinette and Selmar’s though.

Lake City Florida: Paul and Mark Moser

We arrived late afternoon at the Moser land. They hold about sixty acres jointly with Paula’s sisters, and it’s full of trails, trees, and gardens—what my friend Tony whom I visited on March 3-4 called Old Florida. I became friends with Paula and Mark when we went to Bogota, Colombia (gulp) 40 years ago for a semester to study Latin American History and Liberation Theology. I think when something transforms how you view the world, you are always attached to the people you were with at the time.

We went out for a 6:45 am walk the next morning with Paula and met up with two of her sisters. We stayed with Pam, the sister with the cane, when we drove from Bluffton to Miami on I-75 and caught the flight to Bogota.

Clockwise from top left: Paul and Michael talking about word games, with the mist rising on the pond in the background; cool fuzzy pink flower; Paula in Pam’s garden; Michael, Pam and Peggy; in Peggy’s house with her orchids; on the walk. Center: me in front of Paula and Mark’s outstanding azaleas.

After the intense learning experiences of the previous few days, hanging out with Mark and Paula in their hot tub, catching up on events of the past decade and just conversing with two interesting people was what we needed. I think they do retirement better than anyone I know. Paula has turned Michael on to a dizzying array of new games like Absurdle, Nurdle, etc., which he is enjoying. If we don’t see them for another 10 years, I know we will pick up right where we left off.

Again, please admire the azaleas. Paula and Mark were watching their grandson that morning, and he didn’t want to leave Paula’s arms, so we couldn’t get us all in one picture.

St. Petersburg and Tampa: Tony Treadway and Glenn Hasek

We spent a couple days in St. Petersburg where I reconnected with my friend Tony Treadway, whom I hadn’t seen for decades. He is working on a memoir and I’m helping him out with editing. Tony is spending his retirement playing in four, count ’em four, different bands. We also had dinner with my old college friend, Glenn Hasek, with whom I co-edited Bluffton’s college paper, The Witmarsum. He, his wife Miriam, and son Ben currently live outside Tampa in Odessa, FL, where he works from home, publishing Green Lodging News, a newsletter about environmentally sustainable practices in the hotel industry.

Did I remember to take selfies of either of these encounters? No, I did not, but Tony sent me the photo on the right after the fact. He sent me several and wrote

“The one with the tin foil – I put that on when the Tortugas perform the song ‘Alien Teenagers,’ and I tell the audience the foil prevents them from getting inside my head.”


Selfies aplenty occurred in Miami, where we visited Michael’s relatives and his daughter Beth. Interestingly. When I tried to find civil rights history that occurred in Miami, I found exactly nothing. Tony (see above) said that it’s the difference between Old Florida and southern Florida. Southern Florida was invented by PR firms, according to him.

Nohelia Jarquin is the daughter of the cousin of Michael’s first wife. He remains close to that side of the family, so “relatives” seems a good description for them. We had lunch with Nohelia, her husband Alejandro and their son Diego. Knowing how much Michael loved nacatamales, a Nicaraguan delicacy similar to, but more elaborate than tamales, she bought hime some frozen ones from a woman who made them, with instructions to boil them the next day.

These instructions left us with a conundrum: how were we going to boil them in a hotel room? After some thought, we bought an electric kettle at the St. Augustine Target, because we could use one at home, and used it to boil the nacatamales. They were superb.

Coral Gables: Beth Melissa, Eric and Eric’s Parents

We had a really good time in Coral Gables with Beth Melissa and her boyfriend Eric. Beth gave us a tour around the area, and Eric took us to his favorite Cuban restaurant, the Versailles. We also had dinner with Eric’s parents, Marta and Rubens Tabarley who were pretty much everything you would want in friends; I wish our conversation could have continued, but my back wouldn’t permit it. Marta is originally from Colombia and Rubens is from Argentina, but they have lived in Coral Gables for many years. Eric cooked us a traditional Asado. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten so much sausage before the skirt steak, but I did. If you are offered blood sausage, do not let the name keep you from eating it.

Of course, this event took place after weeks of my worrying that Michael and I would be presentable enough. Our lifestyle trends more casual than Beth’s does. If you zoom in on our picture with the you will notice that I got my nails done. Michael wore one of the new shirts he bought because Florida was warmer than he thought it would be.

St. Augustine

The ACCORD Civil Rights Museum is the type of repository most according to my taste, I’ve found. A small enterprise, run by enthusiastic volunteers with some surprisingly valuable historical artifacts. Our guide clearly regarded all of the objects with great affection, and spoke withpride about the dentists’s office, which houses the museum, having the first integrated waiting room in St. Augustine. (After our travels, I wondered whether it was the only one anywhere in the South during the 1960s.)

Dr. Robert Hayling, the only oral surgeon of any color for miles around, was one of the driving forces behind the St. Augustine Movement which influenced President Lyndon Johnson in his passage of the Civil Rights Act. Do you remember the film of a white man dumping acid in a swimming pool to get black people out of it? That was St. Augustine.

Our enthusiastic guide, Gwendolyn Duncan. Highly recommend.
Our guide said that this sign was from the original St. Augustine Woolworth’s.
Dr. Hayling’s presence is felt throughout the museum. One of my favorite stories about him was how he confronted one of the men threatening him, reminding him that he had performed major oral surgery on him the previous week.
If you can zoom in to read these ephemera, they make the arrests of students more personal and immediate.
St. Augustine was the only place in Florida where Dr. King was arrested.
The mother of the Governor of Massachusetts came to St. Augustine with goal of getting arrested. For some reason, Gwen found her to be especially amusing. She does (did) seem like a happy person.
Gwen highly recommends this book to get a wholistic view of St. Augustine in 1964
Dr. Gordon was Dr. Hayling’s partner in St. Augustine.
But no matter how accomplished Dr. Gordon was Lincoln National Life would not sell him insurance because he was not “Caucasian.” There are some other interesting ephemera in that case.
The sign from that hotel where the manager dumped acid in the pool that movement young people were trying to desegregate.

The following eyewitness account of a Klan meeting in St. Augustine describes the threat that forced Dr. Hayling to leave town. I am putting them in full size so that you can read them easily.

Gwen pointed out this church as the church where King and other civil rights leaders met to strategize for the St. Augustine Campaign–and the plaque there confirmed it. However, when we walked back to our car, we noticed another church across the street claimed the same thing. I imagine several churches were involved.

I think the next blog will be the last.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part III

We thought we were here for the friends but if you look past all the football paraphernalia stores, you see people working for civil rights and the restoration of history.

From right to left: Our friends Peter (who wrote the definitive biography of Howard Thurman),
Jane (a genetics nurse Ph.D.) Orrville Vernon Burton, who worked for voting rights in the 1960s and is
having to do the same now 60 years later, Michael and yours truly. Jane and Peter were having a good time,
despite appearances.

When we visited our friends Peter and Jane in Clemson, SC, we assumed the visit would be heavy on the friends part of the tour and light on the civil rights. But due to Peter’s career as a professional historian, we did find a civil rights—or maybe “human rights” is a better term—connection.

It all began when Peter (or Jane—I forget)said that the university had probably built its football stadium over the graves of enslaved people.

Clemson Stadium, aka “Death Valley,” due to the prowess of its Tigers team. Maybe they
should keep the name, given it’s probably over a graveyard.

Peter then told us an African American literature professor on campus had led the effort to remember the lives of enslaved people who lived on the John C Calhoun plantation, which became the campus of Clemson University, built by convict labor. The graves of these slaves and convict laborers are marked by flags, or spray-painted circles on walkways around the campus.

Next day, we accompanied Peter to the Clemson Campus to check out what was going on there. Peter was the perfect tour guide to explain, in the era of Black Lives Matter, how the school was navigating between its Board and its faculty what to do with buildings named for enslavers and racists.

Old Main, also known as Tillman Hall, which faculty pushed to rename because
Senator Benjamin R.“Pitchfork Ben” Tillman was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Person.
Black and white head shot of Nancy Washington Legree, an enslaved woman who worked in the John C. Calhoun Home that still stands on the Clemson Campus
Thomas Green Clemson was a Confederate officer and ran a forced labor camp with the
people he enslaved.
The “integration with dignity” happened after its first black student sued Clemson
in federal court for admittance into the University.
This sign was the compromise between the trustees and the faculties. Tillman’s actual
name would come off the building, but they’d put up this plaque alluding to his repugnant attitudes and behavior.

When Peter suggested we tour the home of virulently pro-slavery John C. Calhoun, my first reaction was I didn’t want to be one of those people who toured plantation homes. But Peter encouraged me, saying the exhibits inside were not that kind of Old South nostalgia. We were both surprised, however, by how not-that- kind-of-nostalgia they were. Peter hadn’t been on campus for a while so the narrative of enslaved people who had lived on the plantation/campus was new to him.

But first, we had to learn more about this guy.
I’m using big pictures so that you can see the tags with magnification.

At the end of our Clemson campus/plantation/forced labor camp tour,
we paused to reflect on what we had learned next to a building name for
Strom Thurmond. Some people think he had a conversion experience later in life. Others
beg to disagree.

Another important thing I learned that day: my ankle, broken at the end of June,
could now walk more than four miles.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part III

Greensboro and Chapel Hill

From Charlottesville, we drove to the Woolworth Museum in Greensboro. In 1960, four young men sat at the lunch counter at the Woolworths and asked for service. They did so for months until the store, experiencing staggering economic losses, quietly caved.

Michael standing in front of the Greensboro Woolworth’s/International Civil Rights Museum

The museum doesn’t allow you to take any pictures, and it didn’t sell any postcards of the pictures I wanted to take, most significantly the wall with the names of all those who died participating in the struggle for civil rights. For those who are interested in going to the museum–the film that they show you at the beginning of the self-guided tour pretty much tells you everything you will see in the museum.

Have you ever heard of the Greensboro Massacre? It sounded familiar to me; my thoughts went to something labor-related. Michael and I were both shocked to learn it happened in 1979 when I was a senior in high school. It started out as a “Death to the Klan” rally sponsored by the Communist party in a low-income housing development. The Klan had been trying to divide workers along racial lines that the communists had been trying to organize in the textile factories. Well, the Klan and the Nazis showed up and killed five of the rally participants—with the collusion of the Greensboro police, as it turns it out. When the police finally turned up, they arrested the rally participants. As part of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 2004-2006, the city agreed to erect a memorial to those slain at the housing development, but so far, just this plaque marks the event—Marker J-28 in the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program.

We had dinner that night with friends of Michael, who had decided they preferred North Carolina weather to Rochester weather.

Chrissy told me to smile after I took the first one
The names of the beers on tap were fun

On our way to Chapel Hill the next day we stopped to see a friend who used to live in Canandaigua and who also does not miss the snow.

Behind us in the red brick building is a very Whole Foods sort of store, but more community-conscious.

In Chapel Hill, we discovered some significant human rights events. Heard of the freedom riders who de-segregated the buses in the South? What dates come to mind? Well, these folks were doing it in 1947 and were put on chain gangs for their resistance. Respect to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the brave citizens of Chapel Hill.

The North Carolina Office of Archives and History put this up in 2008

Chapel Hill had its own sit-ins, but high schoolers set off the movement here in 1960 instead of college students.

Love me some Direct Action
I was literally standing in front of this monument, when a passerby asked me what I was looking for. He silently pointed to it when I replied.
I thought these kids deserved a close-up.

We spent the night in Hickory, NC with Michael’s friends Kathleen and Kevin, who showed us lovely hospitality, and of course, I forgot to take a selfie of us. I also didn’t find much in the way of sites in Hickory that marked the Civil Rights movement. But I did find a thesis on the desegregation of Hickory High School.

On our way to Clemson the next day, we decided it was time for us to participate in another southern tradition. Verdict: my waffle and Michael’s burger were tasty.

The sun was very bright.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, part II

Plaque on the armory where John Brown made his last stand. Storer College was established
for Black students in the 19th century.

Catoctin Furnace

The next day, February 19, we stopped in Maryland to see the Catoctin furnace, where excavators had recently uncovered the graveyard of enslaved people who worked in the furnace.

The plaques included the work and lives of enslaved people.
The photo above the poem is what the cemetery actually looks like. We were unable to see it.
Names of enslaved workers at the Catoctin furnace
I took this picture and the following picture from the viewing platform. As you can see,
nothing resembling the slave cemetery is immediately visible.
Plaque on the viewing platform for the enslaved peoples’ cemetery.

Harpers Ferry

After Catoctin Furnace, we spent the remainder of the day in Harpers Ferry with our friend Jane from DC and visited the site where John Brown tried to start the war to end slavery. I was surprised that the armory where Brown made his last stand was so small. Of all the arsenals in states where the war was fought, John Brown’s Fort, as people came to call it, was the only one to survive the Civil War. When it fell into disrepair, Alumni from Storer College, a school for black students, restored it.

An engraved stone on wall covered with plastic

Plaque on the armory where John Brown made his last stand. Storer College was established
for Black students in the 19th century.

I should mention that Harpers Ferry itself is what people call “charming,” all cobblestones and scenery. Jane enjoys visiting there because it’s along the Potomac River and full of hiking trails. Most of the town is National Park Area.

Below are some plaques at the site. It’s good to keep in mind that John Brown thought he was on a mission from God to free enslaved people because he understood the miseries under which they were living. The young people with him were in their late teens and early twenties—university students who thoroughly believed in this mission.

The Kennedy House

Four miles away from Harpers Ferry, the Kennedy House is preserved as the site from which Brown and his comrades left early in the morning to launch their raid on the armory.

All the people who were with John Brown. Notice their ages.
A closer look at the Kennedy House.

Reflections? I still believe in the power of nonviolence. And obviously, the Underground Railroad was largely a nonviolent enterprise. But given that the life of an average enslaved person, once he began working in the sugarcane fields, was seven years, the mass rapes of slave women, the torture of enslaved people with impunity. I do not condemn John Brown. The fault of the Civil War lies with people who did not care enough about the lives of enslaved people from 1619 onwards.


On our way to Greensboro the next day, we decided to stop in Charlottesville, VA, because a high school friend of Michael’s is the rabbi of the synagogue there. But before our meeting, we stopped to see the place where Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist who drove into a crowd of people who had come out to protest the 2017 “Unite the Right” Rally.

James Alex Fields, Jr. injured 35 other people in addition to killing Heyer. Fields, 20, had previously expressed neo-Nazi and white supremacist beliefs, driving from Ohio to attend the rally. In 2019, state court convicted him for the first-degree murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, eight counts of malicious wounding, and hit and run, sentencing him to life in prison plus an additional 419 years. Fields also pled guilty to 29 of 30 federal hate crime charges to avoid the death penalty, resulting in another life sentence in June 2019.

Heather Heyer, ¡Presente!
She had a street named after her
People keep refreshing the Heather Heyer memorial when the city or
unsympathetic individuals try to remove it.

At the Charlottesville courthouse is a plaque commemorating John Henry James’ lynching. Like many of these plaques, the Equal Justice Initiative was responsible for erecting it.

Rabbi Tom Gutherz had more than 15 minutes of fame after the “Unite the Right” Rally in 2017. All the major news organizations wanted to know how his congregation had fared when Nazis surrounded their synagogue. His congregation decided the only irreplaceable items in the temple were sacred items they had adopted from a Jewish community destroyed in the Holocaust. So they removed these from safekeeping, but besides that precaution, they were in the streets with those standing against the rightwingers invading the town. Tom is also active in interfaith activity with area clergy. You can read some of his thoughts here.

Tom wants people to know he’s not as severe as he appears in this accidental GIF.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour So Far

A couple of years ago, after noticing we had a critical mass of friends who had moved to the south, Michael and I talked about taking a long vacation. We would visit historic Civil Rights locations while visiting these friends. This year, we decided to make that vision real. Since our self-imposed itinerary has taken up most of our time, I haven’t had much time to post. But as we travel I am going to try to share pictures.

On the evening of the 18th, we stayed with Michael’s friend from Habonim summer camp, Sarah Organic. Michael and Sarah have known each other since he was 15 and she was 13. I forgot to get selfies, but Sarah was gracious enough to send me these pictures.

Our time in Yardley, PA was mostly a friend visit, but we talked a lot about civil rights, and she took us on a drive to see some Underground Railroad locations.

Continental Tavern, Yardley, PA

African Methodist Episcopal Church, Yardley, PA