on Pedro Varas.
October 17th, 2004
Buenos Aires, Argentina, 17.10.2004.
talk about “Pedrito” Varas... When I was called into the
project, my heart jumped. Another jump... another “desaparecido”
from my generation. These jumps will never ever end. Friends, acquaintances,
mates from childhood and from life, from college, political commitment,
“desaparecidos” or slaughtered that hurt in remembrance.
Anniversaries that commemorate the return of other friends from exile.
My dearest friend Cristina that celebrates her release from the joint
as her second birthday.
The project of recovering Pedro, one of the “desaparecidos”
that had been also disappeared from our own memory, cheered me up. It
is the possibility of a permanent check up on our own memory and our
own history and because of the decision of bringing Pedro Varas back
from the forgiveness to a living presence.
This is my very personal testimony on Pedro, that big bearded man, sullen
outside and pure tenderness inside, who patted my pregnancy fat tummy
from my eldest daughter, smiled aside, slowly, as Patán dog and
predicted that it “was to be a little male”, as all men
wish. He was wrong. Today she is a beautiful woman at her 31 years.
Worker son of workers, raised in that working class culture that became
evident in his ruined and hands –most of the times dirty –
because of the tanning and acids he used to create his cute leather
handbags. Old jeans, peasant snikers or boots and military coloured
working class shirts, most of the times with the sleeves wrapped up.
When he wanted to look fancy, he wore the only unused jean he had and
a madras like shirt. Short sleeves in summer. High collar sweater and
marine black overcoat in winter.
We all had a small open air shop in what, in the early 70’s, was
known as the Plaza San Martín Artisans’ Fair. We were a
weird human group to those who look it from nowadays. Wrongly named
as hippies, something of that we had. But we were not pacifists if the
Cavalry Police Force came to cast us away. “Double match”,
they were then called: horse, saddle, horse.
We had the habit of throwing small steel balls or three points nails
to slow down the horses charge, pick up our small shops and merchandises
and run into the not many nearby bars that opened us the doors either
to hide or to use the bathrooms.
A big lot of us had a serious political commitment in some of those
days numerous combative organizations. We spoke in low voice about that
among those who had developed a certain confidence in each other. A
confidence won at hand, with the daily attitudes, in the way our opinions
Among others, there he was Bernardo Troxler and his girlfriend. Nephew
of Julio Troxler, a survivor from the José León Suarez
shooting that time later became the Chief of Police of the Buenos Aires
province during the Victorio Calabró’s peronist administration,
actor in Fernando “Pino” Solanas movie “The Sons of
Fierro” and few years later killed by “The Triple A”,
the para-militar army that begun the slaughters before the legal Government
was turn down. Bernardo didn’t like to talk about his famous uncle.
He disliked to make use of surname, as we use to say.
We argued about politics with the same passion we went enthusiastic
about the first coming of Carlos Santan to play in Argentina. From small
shop to small shop we sung tunes of Almendra and Manal –the tow
most popular local rock bands of those days – but with the most
acknowledged folklore “zambas” and “chacareras”.
Pedro loved tango. He hummed their melodies (he was an awful singer)
but he remembered the complete lyrics of all the tangos that described
the life of the working class fellows. I shall never forget that he
taught me two tangos I didn’t know: Monday, the one that talked
about “the calendar shows us that is Monday and a new web has
begun”, while “limped Pantaleón walks in bare foot”.
And Yuyo verde (Green weed), which melancholic poetry made it became
in my other favourite together with Tinta Roja (Red Ink), the one my
Great spokesman Pedrito. Barricade spokesman, capable of saying straightforward
and simple the most deep and terrible things, the common senses truths
that settled down discussions –a bit ridiculous at the distance-
in the artisans’ assemblies where we fought for preserving our
work and artistic expression places that the Fair was. In those days,
exactly as nowadays, street vendors were fought by the Plaza San Martín
hip area established commerce men. They accused us of being non tax
payers, of ruining a landscape that had always seemed of their own instead
of a public place: the crossroad where Florida pedestrian walk ends,
Santa Fe Avenue begins and raises, impressive and superb the Cavannagh
Skyscraper, with the Plaza Hotel and Martinez de Hoz home, the former
minister of Economy of the last Dictatorship.
Pedro lived at the southern neighbourhood of San Telmo. I can’t
recall the street but I do remember that his house had green iron crafted
doors and that it was slightly bigger that a basement. A one room place
that was home and workshop, as those of the shoemakers. The place where
we gathered some nights to sip mate or drink red wine. Pedro was a huge
red wine drinker and of “patero” (footsmashed) wine that
he found at the Quilmes riverside when there still was a large Slovenian
community settled down that produced an exquisite and demolishing home
made sweet wine.
He was a South area man. A great cooker and a great lonesome. Some spaghetti
with tomato sauce and a hard –as the unforgettable comic Mendieta
dog said- lentil cacerole, one of those in which the spoon stands up
inside the pot. I don’t’ remember Mónica, mother
to his only son. He wasn’t a friend of marriage although he has
been a married man ages ago. Solidary y solitary, it might have been
other of his biography fragments that he hushed. Pedro was a man that
made of affection a complicated world. One had to understand his gestures
because, in these matters, his words were always short. I’m not
sure if at that time his parents were alive or not. Pedro avoided talking
of his present life and preferred vague commentaries on his childhood
and adolescence, as a worker in the South area factory.
I do remember his political commitment, of which very few of us knew.
His “other” life, the clustered one, as we then named it.
Anyway, it appeared in is organisational capacity at the Fair, in his
skills to convoke to fight for what we considered justice. I am not
referring only to the artisans’ life, a dignified works as any
other to make a living. I am describing the general scenario of which,
whether we knew it or not, we were part of. Those were the 71 and72
years and we agued about the “Great National Agreement”
(Gran Acuerdo Nacional) of General Lanusse and Radical Party’s
old leader Ricardo Balbín, the struggle with Perón, if
the “Old Lad” would come back to Argentina, if he “had
the guts” as the dictator had challenged him. Years of “Fight
and He Comes Back” graffitti painted on the walls of the whole
city. Those were the year of the “Tendencia” (surface organization)
and Montoneros, FAR, FAP, FAL, ERP and PRT, the Communist Party, the
pro-Chinese, the pro-Cubans, the pro-armed fight, the against-armed
fight, a complex mosaic of political positions, right or wrong, that
took count of the intenseness of our political discussions, of our will
to change a deeply unfair world, of the epoch’s feeling of which
we weren’t able to escape –finally, nobody can runaway of
its own historical moment-. And about which it yet has not been written,
filmed, debated enough.
Pedro, it couldn’t be any else for the worker son of workers,
was a leftist peronist, that political position that kept and still
keeps awaken so many political annalists that become enthusiastic about
the authoritative aspects of Peronism. As if the authoritarianism was
an exclusive patrimony of the peronism and not a constitute part of
the Argentine society.
I wish this brief space of Pedro’s remembrance (it shall never
be enough repeated), serves to recall what we ever never must forget:
nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies abductions, torture, assassinations,
denial of Justice, identity appropriation of dozens of children kidnapped
with their parents or born and robed in captivity. We still have ahead
a large road to rebuilt our memory of “The Lead Years”.
Revisiting that fragment of History and continue demanding Justice not
only due to our political positions but for what we were and still are:
Gabriela Borgna - Journalist