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Article

At the highest point on the winding highway over the Dominican Republic’s northern mountains, there is a place that is called what it is: La Cumbre, The Summit. In the daytime, in the sunshine, or under a soft tropical rain, it is a beautiful spot, with the impossibly green mountainsides falling away on both sides of the crest. But on the night of November 25, 1960, it was the scene of unutterable horror, witness to an automobile rolling and tumbling down the cliff, with the violated and mutilated corpses of three women inside. They were three of the four sisters of the Mirabal Reyes family, who were murdered for their political involvement: Patria Mercedes (born on February 27, Dominican Independence Day, in 1924, and accordingly named “homeland”), María Argentina Minerva (born March 12, 1926), and Antonia María Teresa (born October 15, 1935). Their driver, Rufino de la Cruz (born November 16, 1923), was murdered with them. The fourth Mirabal sister, Bélgica Adela “Dedé” (March 1, 1925–February 1, 2014) who was not directly involved in her sisters’ opposition activities, survived to be their witness. The brutal murder of the charismatic Hermanas Mirabal was the most notorious, and the most widely reviled, of the countless crimes committed by the regime of Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until 1961. The Mirabal Sisters’ demise mobilized international censure of the Trujillo regime and contributed to its downfall, because they were the most charismatic of his victims, and because their kidnapping and murder constituted the most outrageous of the crimes committed during his lengthy dictatorship. In 1999, the United Nations designated November 25, the date of the Mirabal Sisters’ murder, to be memorialized as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which it has been ever since.

Article

Human rights was perhaps the defining feature of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Although much attention was given at the time to its impact on US relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Latin America was equally, if not more, important in defining and implementing Carter’s vision of a human rights foreign policy. Latin America was the site of some of the Carter administration’s most visible and concentrated human rights diplomacy, and revealed the central logic and persistent challenges of implementing a coherent, comprehensive human rights policy that worked in tandem with other US interests. Carter’s Latin America policy reimagined US national interests and paired human rights with greater respect for national sovereignty, challenging US patterns of intervention and alignment with right-wing anticommunist dictatorships throughout the Cold War. In the Southern Cone, the Carter administration’s efforts to distance the United States from repressive Cold War allies and foster improvements in human rights conditions provoked nationalist backlash from the military regimes, and faced domestic criticism about the economic and security costs of new human rights policies. Similarly, in Central America, the administration faced the challenge of reforming relations with abusive anticommunist allies in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador without supporting communist revolution. Its tepid and cautious response to violence by the Central American governments called into question the Carter administration’s commitment to its human rights agenda. In Cuba, the Carter administration sought to advance human rights as part of a larger effort to normalize relations between the two countries, an effort that was ultimately stymied by both geopolitical dynamics and domestic politics. Although limited in the fundamental changes it could coax from foreign governments and societies, the administration’s policy had a tangible impact in specific high-profile human rights cases. In the long term, it helped legitimize human rights as part of international diplomacy in Latin America and beyond, amplifying the work of other government and nongovernment proponents of human rights.

Article

The struggle for transitional justice in Brazil has faced various roadblocks since the country’s return to democracy in the mid-1980s. The military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985 employed brutal political repression against civilians deemed “subversives.” For years, however, the state had persistently disregarded claims to hold perpetrators accountable. This was mostly the result of an extremely negotiated and military-controlled transition to democracy, marked by political continuities and legal impunity to human rights violators. Effective campaigns by civil society organizations and families of the dictatorship’s victims finally led the Brazilian state to implement constrained policies of transitional justice. Between 1995 and 2010, the state officially recognized the dictatorship’s practices of torture and forced disappearance, as well as offered reparations to the victims. A national truth commission was ultimately established in 2012, culminating in an extensive final report that illuminated the dictatorship’s systemic repression and recommended holding its key perpetrators accountable. Yet the Brazilian armed forces strongly repudiated the commission’s work and actively curbed attempts to prosecute human rights violators. Frustrated by the state’s protracted implementation of transitional justice, human rights advocates sought alternative routes to accountability and truth-seeking. Some pressured professional organizations to discipline members complicit in the dictatorship’s repression. Others formed local truth commissions in municipalities, universities, unions, and corporations across the country to broaden and enhance the work of the national commission. Brazil thus experienced a particularly gradual and decentralized trajectory of transitional justice.

Article

The history of exhibitions in Brazil during the 1960s and 1970s provides a key reference point for understanding how artistic vanguards and contemporary art unfolded in direct relationship to social and political contexts. The seminal exhibitions during these pivotal decades elucidate how the contemporary in Brazilian art stages and reframes conceptions of the “new” vis-à-vis the art object. The exhibitions in question trace the development of Ferreira Gullar’s não-objeto (non-object, 1959) and its path toward the idea-based artwork, an impulse that was prevalent throughout the 1960s in the United States and Europe as well. Inaugurated by the emergence of Brasília, Brazil’s new capital city in the formerly barren hinterlands of the state of Goiás, the 1960s witnessed a new model of artistic practice that pushed the boundaries between art and life, actively seeking out the participation of the viewer. This is most evidenced in the canonical work of artists Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark. By the 1970s, challenges to the utopian undertakings from the previous decades had become imbricated with political activism, as artists and intellectuals alike pronounced a commitment to the quest for democracy after the military coup of 1964. The 1970s also witnessed heightened artistic engagement with new information and communication technologies, including the use of video equipment and computers. Constructing the history of Brazil’s contemporary art via the most important moments of its display will not only historically and politically contextualize some of the groundbreaking artists and artworks of these two decades, but also introduce readers to the challenges that these artworks posed to the more traditional methods of institutional display and the criteria used to interpret them.

Article

An array of documentary photographic practices that emerged during the dictatorship in Chile (1973–1990) remain understudied, despite their political, aesthetical, and historical import. From the mid-1970s onward, these different practices served different purposes: some made visible the crime of disappearance and its disavowal by the repressive state; others stood as supplementary evidence that confirmed the legal existence of the detained-disappeared; some were a crucial force in denouncing state repression and demanding justice for victims; and some made it possible for independent media to simultaneously comply with and ridicule the censorship of images imposed by the dictatorship in 1984. These practices also helped to consolidate the expanding photographic field under dictatorship. They include the public display of ID photos and portraits torn from family albums; documentary images that relatives of the victims of repression pinned to their chests; the reproduction, compilation, and incorporation of these portraits into legal files and habeas corpus claims; the publication of countless photos of popular protests in independent media; and different photographic initiatives put forward by a group of photographers who established the Independent Photographers Association in 1981. Notably, the expanding photographic field under dictatorship engaged not only individuals and groups directly involved with photography but also ad-hoc human rights collectives and organizations (especially the Group of Family Members of the Detained-Disappeared and the Vicariate of Solidarity), as well as lawyers, judges, journalists, and everyday users of photography. Given the different arenas in which documentary images circulated, the transformations they underwent to resist repression and censorship, and the array of individuals involved in their (re)production and dissemination, a study of documentary photography under dictatorship in Chile cannot content itself, as has been the case, with surveying the practices that emerged within the artistic field. A study of the visual culture under dictatorship instead reveals both the different uses of photography in the public space and the transformations of documentary images in their successive circulations and disseminations.

Article

Since its establishment in 1889, the history of the Brazilian republic was marked by the centrality of the armed forces, particularly the army, in political life. But between 1964 and 1985, the military was in direct command of the state, imposing indirectly elected generals as president. After overthrowing the reformist center-left government of João Goulart on March 31, 1964, the military installed a tutelary authoritarian regime to control civil society and the political system, serving as a political model for similar regimes in Latin America during the Cold War. The military passed arbitrary laws and severely repressed left-wing political groups and social movements while also seeking to accelerate capitalist development and the “national integration” of Brazil’s vast territory. They intended to modernize Brazilian industry and carry out bold infrastructure projects. On the other hand, they faced strong opposition from civil society, led by political groups, artists, intellectuals, and press outlets of diverse ideological backgrounds (Marxists, liberals, socialists, and progressive Catholics). These groups were divided between total refusal to negotiate with the military and critical adherence to the policies of the generals’ governments, composing a complex relationship between society and the state. Understanding the role of the military regime in Brazilian history requires a combination of historical research and historiographic criticism in light of the disputes over memory that continue to divide social and political actors.

Article

Timothy Wilson and Mara Favoretto

In the 20th century Argentina experienced a series of dictatorial regimes of varying intensity, but the last dictatorship stands apart. The Process of National Reorganization or Proceso (1976–1983) was not only the most brutally repressive, “disappearing” 30,000 of its own citizens into concentration camps, but also the most ambitious in terms of ideological mission. Its campaign, officially called “the war against subversion,” was committed to the total eradication of leftist ideas from the political landscape of the country by any means necessary. This radical transformation was to be brought about not only in the torture chamber, but in the media as well. The regime planned an Orwellian redefinition of words: the systematic creation of a national vocabulary that would exclude certain ideas and parties. In order to achieve its overt project of the appropriation of language, the junta maintained obsessive control over the media, instituted strict censorship reinforced by terror, and bombarded the airwaves and newspapers with official communiqués. In the face of this repression, most journalists and writers and many artists could not express dissent of any kind. Yet singers of a new Argentine music genre that came to be known as rock nacional developed codified and oblique metaphorical expression in their lyrics that allowed them to evade censorship and to continue to criticize the military regime with relative impunity. Moreover, many Argentine youths found solace in the music and used it to create communities in which they could meet and express themselves. The regime had sought to deny young Argentines a forum for public speech; however, together artists and listeners created a rock nacional culture that provided community for the isolated and lent a voice to the silenced.

Article

As the number of favelas and poor residents of Rio de Janeiro grew quickly by the mid-20th century, they became the object of policymaking, social science research, real estate speculation, and grassroots mobilization. After a decade in which local authorities recognized the de facto presence of favelas but without legally ascertaining the right of permanence, the 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the era of mass eradication. Seemingly contradictory—but complementary—policies also included the development of massive low-income housing complexes and innovative community development and favela urbanization experiences empowered by community organizations with the assistance of experts committed to improving the lives of poor Cariocas (residents of Rio). Favelas in Rio were at the crossroads of a particular interplay of forces: the urgent need to modernize Rio’s obsolete and inadequate urban infrastructure; the new administrative status of the city after the inauguration of Brasilia; and the redefinition of the balance of power between local, municipal, and federal forces in a time of radical politics and authoritarian and technocratic military regimes, Cold War diplomacy, and the transnational flows of expertise and capital.

Article

On March 12, 1956, Basque National and Columbia University lecturer Jesús María de Galíndez Suarez disappeared from New York City never to be seen again. While no conclusive evidence was ever uncovered, it has been widely accepted that he was taken by functionaries of the regime of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, flown to the island, tortured, and killed. Galíndez, who had worked for the Trujillo regime after fleeing Spain in 1939 and subsequently immigrated to the United States in 1946, had just completed a dissertation on the Trujillato at Columbia. The regime did not look kindly on his chosen perspective and set in motion a plan to have him disappeared. Following his abduction, many U.S. solidarity activists joined forces with Dominican exile groups to push for greater attention to the atrocities of the Trujillo regime as well as for a closer investigation into Galíndez’s disappearance. While Trujillo had similarly disappeared a number of individuals in the United States and other Latin American countries, the Galíndez case is unique for several reasons. First, Galíndez’s life offers a prime example of a transnational identity, of someone who juggled multiple identities and causes, crossed physical and ideological borders, and operated daily with conflicting alliances and allegiances. Second, the murder of the Basque national mobilized a significant collective of solidarity activists in the United States, garnered considerable national press, and built a foundation for future activism. Moreover, as Galíndez had been working as a U.S. intelligence operative since before his arrival in the United States, his story complicates the traditional nexus of solidarity work. Finally, the case offers a unique window onto the geopolitics of the early Cold War (prior to the Cuban Revolution) and the intricacies of the second half of the Trujillo regime.

Article

Twentieth-century science and technology in Brazil were marked by the building of new institutions of higher education, research, and research funding as well as by the professionalization of scientific practice in the country. Most of these changes were state driven and state funded, while some support came from foreign philanthropic foundations and states and, on a smaller scale, from the private sector. The mid-20th-century was when most activity took place, for instance the founding of the University of São Paulo, as a reaction of the state of São Paulo to national political changes in 1930, and the establishment of funding agencies such as Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), as initiatives of the federal government. Throughout the century the institutionalization of science moved from a strictly pragmatic model toward the acknowledgement of science as the professional activity required for the production of new knowledge. In Brazil the development of science has been marked by a succession of ups and downs closely following economic cycles and political times, albeit not perfectly synchronously. Therefore, a major brain drain began in 1960 during a democratic regime, and the 1964 military dictatorship restrained civil rights while supporting science from 1970 on. Chronological limits in this history are not turning points. On the one hand, as the 21st century began Brazilian academia suffered further ups and downs closely related to political and funding crises, which have worsened since President Jair Bolsonaro assumed office in 2019. On the other hand, the huge impact of the 20th-century changes in Brazilian academia should not detract from the production of science and technology in previous centuries.

Article

Thiago Lima Nicodemo, Mateus Henrique de Faria Pereira, and Pedro Afonso Cristovão dos Santos

The founding of the first universities in the first decades of the 20th century in Brazil emerged from a context of public education reforms and expansion that modified the relationship between intellectuals and the public sphere in Brazil. The representation of national pasts was the object of prolific public debate in the social sciences and literature and fine arts through social and historical essays, pushed mostly from the 1920’s to the 1950’s, such as Gilberto Freyre’s, The Master and the Slaves (Casa Grande e Senzala, 1936) and Sérgio Buarque de Holanda’s Roots of Brazil (Raízes do Brasil, 1936). Just after the 1950s, universities expanded nationally, and new resources were available for academic and scientific production, such as libraries, archives, scientific journals, and funding agencies (namely CNPQ, CAPES and FAPESP). In the field of history, these effects would have a greater impact in the 1960s and 1970s with the consolidation of a National Association of History, the debate over curricula and required content, and the systematization of graduate programs (thanks to the University Reform of 1968, during the military dictatorship). Theses, dissertations, and monographs gradually gained ground as long social essays lost their prestige, seen as not befitting the standards of disciplinary historiography as defined in the graduate programs such as a wider empirical ground and more accurate time frames and scopes. Through their writing in more specialized formats, which moved away from essays and looked into the great Brazilian historical problems, historians played an important role in the resistance against the authoritarian regime (1964–1985) and, above all, contributed to a debate on the role of silenced minorities regarding redemocratization.