The “desaparecidos” (missing) Italian-Argentines, a book by Rosella Tallerico

argentinaEven today, the matter of the “desaparecidos” (the “missing”) represents an open chapter because there is much to do regarding truth vs. recollection, as well as on the side of justice.  An incident, at first seeming “distant,” pulls us in from thousands and thousands of miles away, making it feel very “close,” both due to the matter of Italian pride in the formation of the Argentine nation, and in terms of the profiles of many of its protagonists, for better or for worse.  A story that also closely concerns Calabria, the territory of origin of many victims, and ironically some of the tormentors.

It is exactly that which is discussed in the book by Rossella Tallerico “Impossibile gridare, si ulula. Storia di desaparecidos italo-argentini “, released in September of 2015 in the Miscellaneous Historical Studies of the Department of Humanities of the University of Calabria.

The book was presented on January 2nd in the Council Hall of Pentone (CZ), the city of origin of the writer, and in the presence of many local citizens and beyond. The meeting was moderated by Vincent Marino, and in addition to the author, the mayor of the small community Michele Merante, Louis Pandolfi (journalist), Mario Occhinero (member of March 24 association) and Claudio Di Benedetto, son of Filippo Di Benedetto, amongst the “correct” in that terrible tragedy.

In addition to examining the historical and political side of the years of the dictatorship in Argentina, which began March 24, 1976 with a military coup, and the so-called “Guerra Sucia”, or “dirty war,” a precise plan of repression of opponents by the practice of DESAPARICION – enforced disappearance or involuntary disappearances of unarmed citizens, the book provides accounts of invaluable individual stories and human and political affairs that characterized that period.

The military junta affirmed that they wanted to create a “new “Argentina, disallowing all forms of democratic expression of political dissent. In fact, they planned and organized a social campaign that struck down all those who demonstrated differing views from the “values” held by the regime. The Dirty War was, in its time, a violation of human and civil rights through illegal detentions, kidnappings, torture and murder.

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Rossella Tellerico

The Argentine military would apprehend suspects from their homes and bring them, without any judicial proceedings to detention centers set up across the country and after long interrogations, physical and psychological violence, cruel torture, they would disappear. During this barbarism, not even infants were spared. The practice of “Robo de los ninos” was to force the pregnant mothers in detention centers, to give birth, then they were killed, leaving the children to be entrusted to the families of their own torturers.

Rossella Tallerico

The presentation of the book commenced with moderator Vincenzo Marino, who stated, among other things, that “behind every number and every story, there is a life, a tragedy that does not end with the end of the dictatorship in Argentina but that continues to this day.”

Louis Pandolfi has instead focused on the economic implications of the authoritarian turn in Argentina, reiterating the relevance of the story “so that the new generations are made aware.” For the spokesperson of the Association of March 24, Mario Occhinero, however, it was important to speak about the captives “because they are the victims of a state of terrorism,” recalling the endeavour to raise awareness along with Rossella Tallerico for the reopening of a judicial case.  Lastly, he read a note written by the sister of Francisco Bellizzi, one of the missing, and a native of San Basile (CS), whose story has been reconstructed in the book.

The book also discusses Philip Benedict, the “Schindler” of Calabria who, along with the vice-consul in Buenos Aires Enrico Calamai, helped many Italians to escape from the clutches of the regime. His story was told by his son, Claudio Di Benedetto, who pointed out that his father from an early age was an idealist, engaging in trade union struggles and antifascists who were known even jail. In 1947 he became mayor of Saracena (CS), his hometown, then left in 1952 for Argentina, where he devoted himself to his job as a craftsman, “without forgetting his true passion: politics.” In the years of the dictatorship, together with Calamai, he was the only person in the Italian embassy given weight to his complaints, he managed to save hundreds and hundreds of people, assisting them in leaving the country or hiding them in safe places, such as his own home, at the risk of his safety and that of his family.