La historia oficial

Section A / Pre-viewing activities:

You are about to watch a fictional film which is based on very real events that happened in Argentina during a time period when a military action called the "Dirty War" took place. During this period, dictators ruled Argentina, in part because of a strong base of support within the Argentine military as well as support from other nations.

Read about the Dirty War at this link and then answer the following questions.

1. How do you say "the disappeared" in Spanish? ________________________

2. Against what groups did the government military forces ostensibly fight?

a. Right-wing sympathizers
b. Argentine soldiers
c. Left-wing terrorists

3. According to this link, did innocent people die? _____________  Why or why not?

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4. The title of the film you are going to see is La historia oficial. Before you watch the film, briefly write down what you guess the film's title might refer to. Remember that historia in Spanish means both story and history.

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This is a list of people who disappeared during the Dirty War.

5. What two years did the greatest number of people disappear? _________________

6. Were the people who disappeared mostly men, mostly women or both men and women? _________________________

Go to this site, which includes photos, and answer the following questions.

7. Were the people who were disappeared for the most part over or under the age of 30?  Note: you can click on the photos to get information about each person (you don't need to click on all of them, but you may want to try the first few lines of photos).

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8. Click on some of the pictures of the disappeared and fill in the table with the information of 3 different people:

Name
Age
Place kidnapped or last seen

_________________________

_______

_______________________________

_________________________

_______

_______________________________

_________________________

_______

_______________________________


This tragic period of military rule was not limited to Argentina. During the 1970's and 1980's several Latin American countries suffered through a similar type of military government. In Chile (which at one point had the longest democracy in Latin America), Salvador Allende, a democratically elected president, was overthrown by Chilean military forces with the help of the CIA of the United States. As in Argentina, many people were detained by the government, many of whom never returned.
Mothers who wanted to know what happened to their children and grandchildren began to protest.

On a visit to Chile, Sting was so moved when he saw these women protest that he wrote a song about them.   He sang this song in Mendoza, Argentina and 15,000 Chileans crossed the border. He also sang for the mothers in Buenos Aires for the victims of the Dirty War. In Argentina, he danced on stage with the mothers and grandmothers of the victims.

Read the lyrics in Spanish.


9. Write some of the words down (in Spanish) that are used to describe the people with whom the women dance.

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10. Imagine listening to this song.  What do you predict the music will be like?

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Now, watch the song "Ellas danzan solas" on You Tube.


11. How did the song compare to your prediction?

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12. Do you think the sound of the music matches up well with the lyrics?  Why or why not?

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There is an English version of the song which contains one part in Spanish. You may read those lyrics here.


In Argentina there is a distinct way of speaking and writing.  One of the characteristics of Argentine Spanish is called voseo and instead of using the word "tú" to address someone in a familiar way the word "vos" is used instead.  In many other parts of Latin America one can hear people using "vos" instead of "tú".  The verb forms that accompany the vos pronoun vary from region to region.

In Argentina, in order to find the "vos" form of the present tense, with most verbs all you need to do to the infinitive of the verb is remove the infinitive ending (-ar, -er, and -ir) and replace it with the appropriate ending.  For "-ar" verbs add "-ás," for "-er" verbs add "-és" and for "-ir" verbs add "-ís."  Compare the following forms.
 
verb
form
vos form
dar
das
das
ser
eres
sos
estar
estás
estás
ir
vas
vas
vivir
vives
vivís
hablar
hablas
hablás
tener
tienes
tenés
pedir
pides
pedís
construir
construyes
construís
traer
traes
traés
dormir
duermes
dormís

NOTE: Before you listen to the movie, you should know that the final "s" in Argentine Spanish is heard somewhat like an "h" sound.  Therefore "vos estás" will sound somewhat like "vos estáh".
If you wish to see examples with vos that include a famous Argentine comic strip, go to this site.
To read about the history of vos, click here. For more in-depth information about the verb forms used with "vos" in Argentina, click here.
 


José Luis Herrero
Missing since
March 9, 1976
28 years old

Ana María Lanzillotto
Missing since
July 19, 1976
29 years old

Aída Alicia Pastarini
Missing since 
June 18, 1976
26 years old

Section B: While viewing activities

Before viewing the film, print out and read the questions for section B.  Bring the printout with you so you can take notes while you watch the movie.
 
1. What are the occupations of the following characters, if no occupation is revealed, write down what you think a certain character might do for a living.  Also write down the social class (upper, middle, lower) of the characters.  Besides their occupations, remember to consider how they dress, where they live, the people with whom they socialize, etc.
Character Occupation
Social Class

Alicia (main character):

____________________________

____________________

Alicia's husband:

____________________________

____________________
Ana, Alicia's friend who has just returned to Argentina:

____________________________

____________________
Dora, the woman in red who argues with Ana:

____________________________

____________________

2. Sara is the older woman who protests in the Plaza de Mayo.  Why is she protesting?  With whom is she protesting?  What do they all wear?

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3. How do Alicia and Sara first come to see each other? What is Alicia's initial reaction to Sara?  How do we know that Alicia begins to change in her attitude toward Sara?

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Eduardo O'Neill
Missing since
August 9, 1977
30 years old

Alicia Mallea 
Missing since
April 3, 1976 
22 years old

Diego Eugenio 
Merzbacher Schorr 
Missing since
August 24, 1975 
26 years old


Section C: Post-viewing activities

1. Review your prediction about the meaning of the title La historia oficial that you made in Section A, question 4.  Do you agree with your prediction?  Why or why not?

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2. How does Alicia's perception of her job relate to the title of the movie?

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3. During the reunion of Alicia's high school friends, Ana and Dora begin to argue. How do you think their occupations and social class influence their personalities and political views?

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4. Although Ana criticizes Dora's behavior during high school, why do you think Ana is really angry with Dora?

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5. The ending of this movie is ambiguous.  After watching the movie, write below what you think Alicia is going to do.  Why?  What will her husband do?  What will Sara do?  Do you agree with the decision you imagine Alicia taking?  Why or why not?

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In Section B, you noted how the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo were dressed.  On the following page there is an explanation in Spanish as to why they dress that way.  Read about the Plaza de Mayo and how it became a place for the women to unite, how long they marched, and also read about their symbol which is known worldwide.
 

6. Using the information you were able to gather on the page as well as some intuition, state why you think women protest in the Plaza de Mayo and why do they wear the white scarves. Why is it important that they are mothers and grandmothers?

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7. How is this similar to the women in Chile who dance the "cueca"?

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In the movie, Sara's daughter was pregnant and that is why she thinks that Alicia's daughter Gabi might be her grandchild.  Click here to see actual pictures of women who were pregnant when they disappeared.

8. What information do the makers of this page wish to present about each person?

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While many people disappeared at the hands of people working with the permission of the Argentine government, the Dirty War in Argentina was not strictly an isolated phenomenon limited to the Argentine Republic. Read about an institute formerly known as the School of the Americas (official page and unofficial page #1). Answer the questions that follow:

9. What is the School of the Americas now called? _____________________________________________________________________________

10. Why has the name changed?

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

11. Where is it located?____________________________________________________________

12. Who are some of the graduates of this school? ____________________________  ________________________  ________________________

13. Now go to this link and write down the names of two graduates of the SOA connected with the Dirty War in Argentina.


_____________________________        _____________________________

14. The following articles present 2 points of view about the former SOA. Some support keeping the institution and make some changes while others wish to close the institution down all together. Read the following articles, then state which side you support and why. Be complete in your response and support your opinions. Type your response on a computer and double space it.

15. One problem that confronts many countries where human rights abuses were committed during dictatorship or war, is what to do with the people guilty of these crimes after the war or dictatorship is over. This is not a problem that only Latin American countries, like Argentina, Chile or El Salvador, have faced in recent years but also other countries such as Bosnia or Rwanda. There are two schools of thought. Some people advocate that most of the people guilty of such crimes be pardoned while others think that those who committed crimes should be brought to justice. What is your opinion on this matter? Why? W Type your response on a computer and double space it.

Section D: More information

If you want to see reports on proposals by the late Joe Moakley (Representative in Congress from Massachusetts) to close or cut funding for the school formerly known as SOA and other discussions in Washington on the subject, click here.

To read a congressional report from the year 2000 that includes past history with both pro and con arguments, click here.


Other links of interest relating to the Desaparecidos:

 

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