Everyday Life in Argentina in the 1960s
- Isabella CosseIsabella CosseInterdisciplinary Institute of Gender Studies, University of Buenos Aires
The 1960s in Argentina was a time convulsed by profound social, cultural, and political changes. Reflecting on the effect these processes had on the everyday, conceived as the spaces and routines involved in the reproduction of life that vary according to social class, generation, and gender, provides a valuable perspective for studying historical phenomena. It gives substance to and evidences the social nature of personal experience. Through that prism, the study of everyday life will be the gateway to understanding the turbulence produced by cultural effervescence, growing consumerism, the expansion of the media, the problems triggered by economic instability and escalating inflation, and the ruptures caused by political and social radicalization and the rise of repressive violence.
Demographic Patterns, Living Conditions, and Public Policies
In 1960, there were 20,013,793 people living in Argentina; 72 percent lived in urban areas, which had increased 10 percent since 1947. Urban concentration, which had long been a trend, intensified in the following decade. In 1970, 79 percent of the population lived in cities, half of whom were in cities larger than half a million inhabitants. The Pampas, the richest region in the country and the metropolitan area (which included the city of Buenos Aires and surrounding area known as Greater Buenos Aires), constituted more than 70 percent of the country’s population, while the rural population made up only 28 percent.1 These realities had a measurable effect on daily life. Life in the northern mountains, with its small plots of land and unhurried pace, characteristic of inhabitants’ indigenous roots, had little in common with the customs of the rich, prosperous, and humid Pampas, with its intensive agricultural and livestock production or those who dominated the jumbled, cosmopolitan epicenter of the country. On top of this heterogeneity, however, interrelated sociocultural, economic, and political processes were at work that took on different meanings in each different space and within each class, gender, and generation.
The living conditions in the sixties were profoundly influenced by the two Domingo Perón administrations (1946–1955), during which social labor rights were achieved and social politics as well as state infrastructure were created. The increase in wages (which were 62 percent higher in 1949 than in 1945), the improvement in health coverage, the expansion of public services (light, running water, sewage systems), and the expansion of housing policy (public construction, mortgage loans, and residential property laws) had a deep impact on social reality. This is not to say that Peronism eliminated all social inequality, but, as a whole, these advancements created a tangible expression in daily life. Homeowners went up from 26.8 percent in 1947 to 58.1 percent in 1960, the number of students enrolled in secondary education almost tripled between 1945 and 1955, the number of beds in public hospitals doubled, the number of doctors nearly tripled, and the infant mortality rate fell from 80.1 per thousand in 1943 to 66.5 per thousand in 1953. In addition, these benefits allowed for greater enjoyment of comfort, consumerism, and recreation.2
These improvements represented a “dignification” of the working class, whose new status produced fierce reactions from the middle class as they viewed their status symbols to be under attack, even when large segments of the middle class also benefited from Peronist policies. This placed lifestyle in the center of the arguments. Contempt for the wealthy classes by the working classes—with their new possibilities—were projected with hostility onto the figure of Eva Perón. When the economic situation worsened at the end of the 1940s (product shortages, rising prices, inflation), the opposition disturbed daily life in order to destabilize the government. It also utilized anxieties among the middle classes that led to the laws to expand the rights of people born out of wedlock or the sanction of divorce.3
It was in this atmosphere that a coup d’état, backed by substantial sectors of the middle class and mobilized by Catholic organizations, overthrew Peronism in 1955 and resolved to eradicate it from the political sphere. In the economic domain, the military government (1955–1958), which arose as a result of the coup, favored a free market and restricted state intervention. Under this administration, workers’ living conditions worsened. Their share of the industrial gross product decreased from 47 percent in 1955 to 40.5 percent in 1957.4 In the years that followed, the deterioration of the standard of living magnified societal inequalities. This was evidenced by the housing problem: housing difficulties were historic, and Peronist policies had not been able to eradicate them. By 1960, nearly a third of all families in Buenos Aires shared a home with other families. During these years, housing access was further aggravated with the suspension of public financing and rental laws, which blocked reform and tenant eviction.5
These measures had an effect on vast segments of the working and middle classes. However, each social class took different approaches to facing the new context. Considerable sectors of the middle classes were in a position to attain new ways of purchasing, such as private loans and purchasing consortia, for which a company offered to first pay for a plot of land for a group of future apartment owners, and pay off the construction costs in installments. The sectors with less economic power had to resort to renting houses or apartments, or even a room in a collective home. For the most impoverished, the solution was squatting or purchasing lots without registration in an illegal market. In Greater Buenos Aires, the proportion of squatters grew from 5 percent in 1960 to 11.24 percent in 1970.6 Their houses were made of metal sheets and wood in shantytowns without plumbing or potable water services, in which music and rhythms reminded them of their origins: many were migrants.
Migration—a long-term strategy against poverty—was a reality for many men, women, teens, and children. In 1970, around 26.4 percent of the population lived outside of the province where they were born. The majority of migrants, who came from inland and from bordering countries, converged in the metropolitan area and outlying areas of Buenos Aires, which grew by 35 percent between 1960 and 1970. They also reached Córdoba and Santa Fe, where new industries were being developed. However, other provinces, taken over by economic breakdown—such as Tucumán, which suffered from the sugar-industry crisis—were losing inhabitants. The uprooting often happened in steps. The first destination was a medium-sized town (towns of 2,000 inhabitants grew from 438 in 1947 to 524 in 1960), and the next was a somewhat larger city.7 Families with several children and some “additions” lived in one or two rooms. Women and children had to carry water from a nearby tap. Unstable kerosene stoves caused fires that often ended in tragedy. Copious rainstorms flooded the streets and tore apart homes. The slums were an essential component of modernization, as the famous avant-garde artist Antonio Berni expressed with his character Juanito Laguna, a boy who embodied the life of the working classes, created from the discarded waste of the wealthier classes, the same waste on which the poorest inhabitants subsisted in big cities.
The expansion of the consumer society accelerated. It benefited from the growing economic globalization and the development policies initiated by Arturo Frondizi (1958–1962), the first president elected via universal suffrage following the coup d’état, although the ban on Peronism continued. Frondizi’s government counted on the arrival of foreign capital to drive up the development of national industry. With this policy, the service and trade sectors grew. In 1960, according to the census, there were 822,450 trade employees and 706,277 office employees in the country (which represented 20 percent of all active workers) and in the federal capital, these groups rose to 32 percent, with 230,025 and 168,715 workers, respectively. These sectors were greatly affected by the new patterns of consumption. Indeed, none of these tendencies were entirely new, but they intensified in the sixties and became strongly associated with a middle class whose core lay at the intersection of the ban on Peronism and the developmental program that promised them modernity.8
The growth of domestic industry significantly expanded the supply of household appliances: the production of stoves doubled, the production of refrigerators increased sixfold, and the production of washing machines grew ten times larger between 1950 and 1970. In this time frame, households experienced a technological boom. In 1947, only 20 percent of homes in Buenos Aires had an electric refrigerator, while in 1969, the proportion nationwide reached 80 percent of all homes with electricity. With this increase came a change in the time and organization of household work. It came, however, slowly, gradually, and with paradoxical and contradictory effects in terms of dreams of technological innovation. Television set the schedule for the families that had access to it—soap operas for housewives and cartoons for children after school—but it did not promote family unity or intimacy as many had predicted. New cleaning equipment appeared in homes, but it frequently increased cleanliness standards and reinforced gender-specific division of labor. In many cases, technological advances led to new conflicts in family relationships. In addition, this consumerism also established new social barriers: for the working classes and a significant portion of the middle class, these new goods, whose advertisements associated them with status, happiness, and modernity, evidenced their economic difficulty and social inequality.9
Lifestyles, Family Relationships, and Cultural Battles
The sixties in Argentina, just as elsewhere, constituted an era marked by the belief that societies were going through a momentous process of social, political, and cultural upheaval that impacted the familial and sexual status quo. There was an understanding that these changes were irreversible, but no similar understanding of the direction these changes would take. This uncertainty triggered deep contention—in both public and private spaces—surrounding family relationships, sexual mores, and lifestyle.
Argentina, just like Latin America as a whole, has historically been characterized by diversity in its norms of domestic organization. However, unlike other Latin American countries, Argentina saw a rapid and early demographic transition during the first decades of the 20th century, which affected birth rates on a nationwide scale (the average number of children per woman decreased from 7 in 1895 to 5.3 in 1914, 3.2 in 1947, and finally 3.1 in 1960 in the entire country). But this decline in birth rates did not detract from the importance of familial diversity. In 1950, almost one in three children was born out of wedlock, and profound regional disparities existed in the number of children per woman. For example, in 1960, the average birth rate in the city of Buenos Aires was 1.7, 2.5 in the province of Buenos Aires, and 2.9 in the province of Córdoba, while the rate exceeded 5.5 children per woman in the provinces of the north, northeast, and Patagonia.10 Of course, in each of these spaces there were also disparities according to social class. As in the past, for many women and men to create a family, they went through the steps of getting married, moving to a new home, and having children, although many others simply had a common-law union, continued sharing a home with other family members, and had children without ever being married, or even raised children that they themselves had not conceived.
The diversity of types of families contrasted, historically, with a normativity that glorified the nuclear family, a reduction in number of children, and a division of labor that meant a female housewife and male breadwinner, as was shown in many books and public advertisements. These homogeneous and limited visions took on a particular density in the 20th century because, in a heterogeneous, troubled, and dense society, the importance given to family behavior and values was exacerbated in the clash for social dominance. Having a white wedding—the symbol of virginity—being a full-time mother, or having rosy-cheeked, educated children allowed families to express to the rising sectors that they held positions in society that supposedly differentiated them from the working classes. This generated dynamics of discrimination toward those who lived in the margins of this established normativity—children born out of wedlock, common-law marriages, and single mothers—which allowed for strong contention that took on increased visibility with Peronism.11
In the sixties, this family normativity was positioned in the center of debates on numerous subjects, but it was young people, with their expressions, ideas, and attitudes, who explored new ways of thinking about love, sex, and family. It was possible to come across meetings of girls and tables in cafeterias in which the value of virginity, the obligation to marry, or how to distribute household duties were debated. These themes even sparked interest among executives, intellectuals, and employees within the middle class, who followed the increasingly modern press, as well as women, female workers, or housewives who bought weekly women’s magazines. The discussion did not imply that one agreed with the news. However, these topics in the public sphere marked a new era, which circulated new concepts, jargon, and aesthetics that exuded modernity and had, by virtue of its mere existence, a sense of defiance.
These innovations were marked by constant contradictions and negotiations between the maintenance and reinforcement of the status quo. Even rhetoric of rupture could be used to strengthen conservatism. The interweaving of new with old became increasingly visible with regard to marriage. Often, many different actors coincided in diagnosing the crisis that marriage faced. But the critiques questioned relationship styles—indissoluble marriage, authoritarian patterns, women as housewives—more than the value of the stable and heterosexual couple as an appropriate space for sexuality, reproduction, and daily life. The discussions even commended partnership—a term with modern connotations, as opposed to marriage—with the hope that both partners signified each other’s complete sexual, romantic, and emotional fulfillment. However, in other cases, the expectations that were placed on the relationship were suited to, among large portions of the population, the acceptance of divorce and “legal unions,” dynamics extended to the working classes, which acquired new significance according to critiques of bourgeois respectability of middle-class youth. These debates took on an especially controversial nature when combined with women’s demand for equality that was expressed in daily life as well as in public spaces.12
This atmosphere affected broad segments of the population with regard to the debates, although, as is often the case, there were very few who were involved in a rupture of their own life decisions. In fact, the decline in marriage—which had begun in 1950—stopped in 1963, at 6.2 per thousand, and began to increase in waves until 1974 when it reached 8 per thousand, after which it began to slope downward again. But this tendency—strongly linked to the ups and downs of economic crises—was concurrent with the rise of divorces, which were not binding since the law passed by Peronism had been suspended after his overthrow, but which doubled between 1960 and 1970. It was estimated that 60 percent of ordinary trials were absolute divorces and one in three couples in 1974 were separated or about to separate, according to UNESCO. There was also an increase in common-law unions, which rose from 7 percent in 1960 to 9.5 percent in 1970 and to 11.5 percent in 1980, as well as the birth rate for unmarried parents, which rose from 24 percent in 1960 to 30 percent in 1980 (data for 1970 are not available). In this case, the rate even increased in the city of Buenos Aires, the jurisdiction where it was the lowest historically, from 14 percent in 1962 to 20 percent in 1975. It also took place in working-class jurisdictions as well as those that were identified with the middle class, in which the social mandate on virginity had been especially popular in the past.13
This outlook acquired new meaning in the context of increasing authoritarianism, censorship, and moralist campaigns in defense of Western and Christian values. With the censorship of movies, performances, and books (such as Sexus by Henry Miller and Lolita by Nabokov), the arrests made at dances and the guards patrolling beaches, they were cast back to the Arturo Frondizi administration, but it was intensified with General Juan Carlos Onganía’s coup d’état in 1966.14 Therefore, unlike in Europe and the United States, where cultural opposition emerged during an “indulgent period,” in Argentina, as in other Latin American countries, it came about in an increasingly repressive period. In fact, questioning customs and the moralist repression, that was supported by broad segments of society, composed a duo that, like an oxymoron, defines the contradictions that marked this era of profound struggles surrounding the status quo.
Youth and Women at the Epicenter of the Disputes
In the sixties, generational and gender-based tensions were at the epicenter of the conflicts with the social, political, and familial status quo. The struggles of the younger generation fed into the opposition on a transnational scale, but they took on distinct forms in each country and social space. In Latin America, the influence from the Cuban Revolution was critical to what formed the context for the ban on Peronism in Argentina, as well as the rise of authoritarianism and the deterioration of living conditions for the working class with increasing economic instability. In this context, large segments of young people—male and female alike—participated in social and political organization, emboldened by the anti-dictatorial struggle and by the promise of the revolutionary utopia. But the disputes involving the younger generations tackled a wide range of issues in which the young men and women defied the authority of their parents, schools, and the state in the dynamics of daily life. The importance of these conflicts occurred within the framework of recognition of youth cultures, strongly marked by differences in class, gender, and age, that were modeled after—and also brought forth—important social, economic, and political phenomena.15
The increase in secondary education enrollment, which had spiked with Peronism, reached one-quarter of teenagers between 13 and 17 in 1960, and one-third in 1970. The experience placed young people in a common situation facing authority, institutional organization, teaching styles, and curricular content. In this sense, despite differences in region, class, and gender, education combined this age group’s routines and experiences. It positioned them in a space that encouraged their autonomy and sociability. Leisure, outings, and friendships were forming new bonds, new belonging, and new identities. Particular worries, readings, and preferences established empathies and differences in which social, cultural, and ideological distance could intervene. However, these tastes could also result in crossing the boundaries of social classes. The market used these possibilities accordingly and, at the same time, favored these emerging youth identities by supplying goods in relation to leisure—dances, movie theaters, and candy shops, blue jeans and long hair, miniskirts and hippie-style bags—or the music industry, which was central to the emergence of these youth identities.16
Individual and distinctive cultures arose. At the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s, the rock-and-roll wave, with the peak of local bands such as Los Gatos, Sui Generis, and Almendra, whose albums were veritable hits in their time period, expressed a form of opposition with their androgynous and hippie style that congregated in concerts and plazas, and, often, left the city. It was a style that distinguished itself from the rebellion led by the intellectual and politicized youth with their own circuits and productions: film discussions, bookstores, and coffee shops, where generations of intellectuals were created, and from which many couples were formed and split up. In spite of their differences, many young people were able to move through different cultural expressions or cultivate them in different moments of their explorations.17
In each sociocultural space, there existed different codes of conduct and expectations regarding courtship, engagement, and sexuality. These differences highlighted different ways of defying “the system.” In many cases, boys and girls claimed imprecise and ethereal values—authenticity, naturalness, spontaneity—based on which they opposed any values that they considered to be formalities and rigidities of the past. With that legitimization, people could feel that they were breaking the rules if a couple got married without a religious ceremony or a girl had a casual sexual encounter without emotional attachment. Each situation took on dissimilar meanings according to the social circles or the time in one’s life, but they commonly implied discreet innovations.
However, these attitudes evoked strong concerns among parents, educators, and authority figures. There were customs, attitudes, and behavior—such as long hair, sitting on the floor, wandering aimlessly, hiking up skirts—that were considered signs of rebellion or deviation that took on meaning in the association between moral, political, and familial subversion. These repressive views did not only come from the government’s moralist operations or traditional Catholicism. In many social spaces, kissing in the streets or pulling up a miniskirt could lead to being insulted or having the police called. Many parents threatened and punished their children in response to their challenging authority. Violence and intolerance led many girls to run away from home or get married to gain freedom.18 However, there also existed parents who were open to rethinking their relationship with their children, which turned books on new parenting methods into bestsellers. In these books, conflicts were explained based on notions such as “trauma” or “complex,” which plunged parents, especially mothers, into profound confusion and troubled introspection.19
Sexuality played an important role in the experiences of young people in social and political disputes. Debates surrounding women’s virginity intensified the concerns that gave rise to transformations in sexual morality among young people and had undeniable social-class connotations, because it was a norm demanded of eligible middle-class girls to protect the transmission of patrimony onto legitimate descendants. Many girls felt encouraged to question these norms, but they did it with different experiences and arguments that involved accepting premarital sex, either as a test for marriage or an expression of love, or even dissociating it from emotional attachment altogether. But often, criticisms of virginity heightened gender inequalities and pressure from men to counter the hesitation of women.20
The new ideas were not always translated into practice, but there was a greater number of women or couples who decided to have a child out of wedlock—although there was likely still a significant proportion of pregnant brides, women who began taking the birth control pill (which provoked rich discussions; its sale in the mid-sixties reached 200,000 per month), and women who had to resort to abortion (which was then still illegal) or give their child up for adoption.21
Strong perseverance coexisted with new perspectives, at least in terms of expectations, for many women. The fight for political rights, which had been achieved in 1947, had been connected to greater legitimacy given to women’s work outside of the home in the public sphere, although there had been no shortage of contradictions with respect to this matter in the discourse of Peronism. In the sixties and seventies, new issues arose. Many women not involved in any formal organization expressed their desires for work and professional fulfillment, as well as equity in their relationships and childcare. This did not mean that new practices had been implemented, but the mere mention of the issue became a wake-up call. Awareness of the inequality or of the conflicts between expectations placed on maternity and family and on work or professional fulfillment brought about conflicts and crises both on a personal level as well as in relationships.
Gender tensions set off profound discussions that were interconnected with generational ruptures. Images of the “modern,” “independent,” or “liberated” woman brought various aspects into play: openness to change, work outside of the home, demands for equality, and assertion of their eroticism. Often, the media presented aspirations of fulfillment outside the home as being intertwined with the cultural prestige of professional, intellectual, and artistic careers, but they also related the independence and autonomy gained by working women.22 Many adolescents distanced themselves from their parents’ life projects and rebuked their positions as full-time housewives or mothers, as seen in the popular character Mafalda, the comic strip that encapsulated rebellious young girls. But other young working-class girls also affirmed their decision to work, and to do so after marriage, based on the legacy of their working mothers and grandmothers who taught them to value their autonomy.23
Indeed, the feminine world became less centered in domestic life. Women who worked outside of the home rose from 21.7 percent of the economically active population in 1947 to 25 percent in 1970. This increase took on more importance in certain urban spaces, such as the capital, where the rate rose from 31 percent in 1947 to 35 percent in 1970, or among the younger age groups. For example, in 1960, 60 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 in Buenos Aires worked, and this number grew, even at the ages of marriage and childbirth. The proportion of women enrolled in universities also rose (for high school, enrollment was equal to that of boys), which nearly leveled with that of men in in 1970.24 The activities of middle-class women outside of the home were sustained by the work of other women: the hired domestic help, who cared for the house and their children. They worked grueling hours, slept in the houses where they worked, and did so in miniscule spaces that contrasted with the comfort of other rooms in the house. They were forced to stop caring for their neighbors, mothers, or family members, including their own children.25
Many women were aware of their oppression and, occasionally, realized the way in which it worsened with social inequality. Their demands for a redefinition of “a woman’s place” did not necessarily imply joining the feminist cause or its associations. However, groups of women mobilized in the name of second-wave feminism existed—such as the Movimiento de Liberación de Mujeres (Women’s Liberation Movement) in 1960 or the Unión Feminista Argentina (Argentine Feminist Union) in 1970—which yielded slogans objecting to machismo, objectification, and submission. These ideas fed into introspective reflections and debates, which were also mobilized by the constant talk in the media of the international women’s movement, beyond the low number of activists for these organizations. Instead, the incorporation of young people in the student movement and leftist organizations saw a massive turnout as part of a rebellion against mandates, although when they rejected them, they did so outside of feminist organizations.26
Exclusions, Authoritarianism, and Violence
At the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, the country experienced an urgent political reality, signaled by the rise in authoritarianism, in which repression and violence became daily. The ferocity of the conflicts could have been predicted in 1955 when the forces behind the coup d’état bombarded the Peronist crowd demonstrating their support for Perón in the Plaza de Mayo. After the coup d’état, local activists used flyers to organize boycotts, bomb explosions, and firework explosions, but also, without any formal organization, built altars to both leaders, held secret memorials, and sang songs at Sunday cookouts.
These expressions kept a political identity alive whose proscription had not succeeded in eliminating it from the political sphere, but rather kept it central in the dilemmas that stigmatized the daily experience. The violent disparaging of Peronism was sealed with connotations of social class. Perón’s deposition was celebrated in the dining rooms of middle-class homes while the working-class women who served them cried in the kitchen. This discovery highlighted the difficulties of a new generation of young people, aggravated by the Cuban Revolution, the volatility of the uprisings on a national level, and the social predicament and restrictions on democracy in Argentina.27
In 1966, General Juan Carlos Onganía’s coup d’état implemented an authoritarian modernization project that banned political parties and brought military intervention to universities. His economic policies exacerbated the unequal distribution of wealth. Workers’ living conditions worsened as a result of pay freezes, inflation, and layoffs, and rural workers suffered with the retention of exports. For women, it was a daily struggle to buy food and feed and clothe their children. This political and economic context gave new meaning to social and political activism. Grassroots labor committees emerged, as did student organizations, leftist groups, and armed movements such as the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (People’s Revolutionary Army), with its Marxist roots, and the Montoneros, associated with the Peronist tradition. In 1969, soon after the rebellions that shook Paris, Mexico City, and Montevideo in 1968, they also exploded in Argentina, with social uprisings in numerous cities. Among them, the “Cordobazo,” led by laborers and students who took the city of Córdoba for several days, managed to thwart the dictatorial government. Political radicalization continued to amplify. Armed organizations were strengthened, labor unions became more combative, and the student movement gained support from large segments of the population.28
In the spaces of revolutionary activism, the situation presupposed an interweaving of the personal and the political, in which the revolution demanded a complete surrender of all subjects to the collective cause. For young people, the dizzying series of events had repercussions on accelerated emotional, loving, personal experiences that came with possibilities of death and constant risks and marked bonds that were hardly conceivable with conventional categories. This younger generation was discovering revolution and sex at the same time: they formed relationships and discussed what it meant to be a revolutionary in the domain of household chores, love, and parenting.29
Police and military repression intensified. Street arrests, police checkpoints, and forced entries became daily experiences throughout the country. The armed forces were legally authorized to fight against subversion, which was understood as any effort to threaten the nation, the Argentine people, or the “Western and Christian civilization.” These notions, abstract and ahistorical, allowed persecution (including torture and murder) for any demonstration, whether via force or ideas, against the social, political, and sexual status quo. However, the repressive response did not succeed in containing the social unrest, and thus a section of the armed forces, after displacing Onganía in 1970, promoted an electoral solution and was prepared to accept the participation of Peronism in order to weaken support for the social revolution.
At the same time, economic instability increased. The constant rise in prices bred worry and anxiety in the home. Families took different strategies: saving on basic expenses such as food, housing, and transport; cutting back on other costs; taking out loans; searching for new means of income; or having more family members enter the workforce. This situation worsened with the ban on certain products intended for export such as meat—a staple in the Argentine diet—and with the rising prices of public services. The continuous inflation and loss of salaries had a severe impact in the daily life of the working classes, and the middle class felt difficulties in paying the bills each month as well. 30 Even the cooking show featuring Doña Petrona—the famous cook whose menus intensified the middle class’s longing for wealth—offered cheap recipes in response to the crisis.31 The perception of social inequality took on a special meaning in the social contrasts between the celebration of comfort and the culture of consumerism that abounded in the media.
Héctor J. Cámpora, delegate to Juan Domingo Perón, came to power in the 1973 elections. His administration heralded a brief but intense “spring” in which political prisoners were freed and a certain distention took place of the censorship that benefited the expansion of cultural opposition. Thousands of young people attended the speeches and challenged police authority. Feminists and the gay and lesbian community launched public and press campaigns with unprecedented visibility. Against this backdrop, the reactions of right-wing and traditionalist efforts intensified in defense of the familial and sexual order. Debates quickly erupted within Peronism itself. The definitive return of Juan Domingo Perón, on June 20th of that same year, ended in a bloodbath with hundreds dead when right-wing Peronists attacked the Montoneros faction. This began an era marked by escalating violence and internal struggles that did not stop when Perón—with a majority of 62 percent—won in the early elections in September of that same year, nor did they stop during his administration. A year later, in 1974, the death of the Peronist leader, who had given his support to the movement’s right wing, definitively dashed the expectations that had been placed on his ability to resolve the crisis in Argentina.
The administration of María Estela Martínez de Perón, wife and vice president of the former president Perón, ruled by the far right, was not able to stop the inflationary spiral that undid her government’s economic measures and resulted in a general strike. The administration was also unable to stop the spike in guerrilla organizations’ armed actions, and the government pledged even more support to the armed forces. In 1975, they were authorized to annihilate the “revolt” that began with a military offensive against the activism that submerged the country in repression, torture, and death. The Armed Forces’ coup in 1976 institutionalized an unprecedented system of extermination that left no trace of the bodies of the social and political activist victims and seized children alongside their mothers and fathers and the babies born in captivity. Tragedy had settled in the society of Argentina.
Discussion of the Literature
Firstly, along the lines proposed in this article, in which daily life is understood to exist at the intersection of socioeconomic, cultural, and political processes, there exists a collection of pioneer works—that have since become classics—centered in political fractures, political polarization, the fragility of democracy, and the rise of authoritarianism that still have relevance today.32 It is also in this direction that the first studies on the intellectual camp are of great importance because it is in their reconstruction that sociocultural modernization was tackled, even without having made it their focus.33 Shortly after, when a surge in testimonial literature on political activism began, in which daily life and subjectivity were emphasized, the concern for these aspects was incorporated into explanatory keys of several works of research on the political process.34
Secondly, in the second half of the 1990s, a feminist focus on history offered an initial reconstruction that emphasized the contradictory and problematic nature of the redefinitions of the female condition and problematized the sociocultural modernization cleaved by the rise of authoritarianism and political radicalization.35 Several years later, research emerged on cultural phenomena such as psychoanalysis, mass culture, the feminist movement, and leftist organizations that demonstrated an interest in studying everyday life and indicated tension in the modernizing programs and discourse.36 In this context, an initial treatment on everyday life was published that focused on the 1960s, beginning with the end of the 1950s and ending in the mid-1970s and prioritizing research on lifestyles and mass culture, such as music and television.37
Thirdly, daily life gained importance in research that aimed to think “in another way” the “long” decade that was the sixties, going back to the beginning of the 1950s and spanning the period up to the first half of the 1970s. It set out to place new subjects and phenomena in the center of the historical process and observe them from the point of view of a social and cultural history, decentralizing the reconstruction exclusively from the cultural and political avant-garde.38 In this way, with different narrative styles, concepts, and periodizations, research on concrete phenomena—such as sexuality, family, youth, the household, technification of the home—shares the intention of providing a historical focus, a reconstruction attuned to the multiplicity of actors, discourses, and programs, and the overlapping of different dimensions in order to provide an account of the complexity of a period in which the avenues of change in customs, sensibilities, and daily routine interacted with sedimented forms of conserving the status quo.39 At the same time, the rise in gender studies in relation to the revolutionary movements and feminist and gay and lesbian organizations continued expanding a line of research that has enhanced comprehension of political processes based on investigating subjectivity and daily life.40 At present, new research is bringing more complexity to the reconstructions with studies centered in different cities or regional spaces in order to conceptualize the political and sociocultural processes in terms of daily life or phenomena or specific cultural expressions (e.g., editorials, theater, rock and roll, comedy).41
For a long time, the 1960s were situated in an arena between the eras considered distinctly historical and those that were considered to be the memory of the present and the themes themselves. This positioning has changed in the last decade with efforts by different institutions, programs, and research groups recovering sources found in personal archives, collectors’ archives, and in the second-hand market. In terms of statistical information, the census and annual statistical publications can be accessed in the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos, the Biblioteca de la Legislatura de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, and the Biblioteca del Ministerio de Economía, which have publications relevant to studies on the economic reality, production, importation, and consumerism. Provincial statistical information is poorly centralized. The Archivo General de la Nación has audiovisual material (such as photographs and commercials), as does the Pablo C. Ducros Hicken Film Museum in Buenos Aires, but copies of films from the era can also be found on the market. In the newspaper and periodicals libraries of the Biblioteca Nacional and the Biblioteca del Congreso de la Nación, valuable newspapers and magazines can be found to create a reconstruction of daily life, although the series are incomplete, in particular those that are directed toward women and children. However, collective undertakings have emerged that have digitalized complete series from the political and cultural press that are available on Ruinas Digitales, created by political-science students at the University of Buenos Aires and by the Archivo Histórico de Revistas Argentinas, managed by liberal-arts and communications researchers from the University of Buenos Aires. Testimonial compilations focusing on repression were given an initial push with Marta Diana’s publication Mujeres guerrilleras (Buenos Aires: Planeta, 1996) and Eduardo Anguita and Martín Caparrós’s La voluntad, una historia de la militancia revolucionaria en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Norma, 1997). In the decades that followed, these testimonials, biographies, and biographical sketches of people holding different positions have multiplied, although it is not always easy to find them together in one library. Similarly, the quantity of archives on the daily lives of political activists grew. The Archivo de Memoria Abierta has their own documentation collections and bibliographical material, and allows access to the collections of other human-rights organizations. Their oral-history collections are particularly valuable, with more than 500 interviews, including interviews with relatives of the desaparecidos and human-rights activists. The Comisión Por la Memoria de la Provincia de Buenos Aires safeguards the archive, property of the Dirección de Inteligencia de la Policía de Buenos Aires’s (DIPPBA) División Central Archivo y Fichero, which boasts hundreds of meters of documentation from the security departments—the first to open in the country—and which is of great value because it allows for a cross-cutting reconstruction of the different dimensions of daily life. The Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Cultura de Izquierda preserves many personal publications, books, and archives from intellectuals and politicians and possesses digital editions of leftist publications. The Biblioteca Nacional has a section of private collections and archives with personal documentation from important cultural and political actors (Arturo Frondizi, Silvio Frondizi, César Tiempo, Jorge Sábato, Rodolfo Puiggrós, Alejandra Pizarnik, and the marriage between Pablo Giussani and Julia Constela, among others), a collection of letters from the dictatorship and editorials (Haynes, Eudeba), and a compilation of activist correspondence during the dictatorship (1976–1983). Meanwhile, the Archivo General de la Nación, in its Intermediate Archive, is processing and opening new institutional documentaries, such as those from the Ministry of Labor, Social Security, or the José A. Esteves Neuropsychiatric Hospital, which allow us to explore other subjects and everyday aspects of the turbulent sixties.
- Aboy, Rosa. “Arquitecturas de la vida doméstica.” Anuario IEHS 23 (2008): 355–384.
- Andújar, Andrea, et al. De minifaldas, militantes y revoluciones, Buenos Aires: Luxembourg, 2009.
- Avellaneda, Andrés. Censura, autoritarismo y cultura: Argentina 1960–1983/1. Buenos Aires: CEDAL, 1986.
- Ben, Pablo, and Joaquín Insausti. “Dictatorial Rule and Sexual Politics in Argentina: The Case of the Frente de Liberación Homosexual, 1967–1976.” Hispanic American Historical Review 97.2 (2017): 297–325.
- Carnovale, Vera. Los combatientes. Historia del PRT-ERP. Buenos Aires: Siglos XXI, 2011.
- Cosse, Isabella. “Argentine Mothers and Fathers and the New Psychological Paradigm of Child-Rearing (1958–1973).” Journal of Family History 35.2 (2010): 180–202.
- Cosse, Isabella. Pareja, sexualidad y familia en los años sesenta. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2010.
- Cosse, Isabella. Mafalda: historia social y política. Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2014. Excerpt in Cosse, Isabella. “Mafalda: Middle Class, Everyday Life, and Politics in Argentina (1964–1973).” Hispanic American Historical Review 94.1 (2014): 35–75.
- Cosse, Isabella. “Infidelities: Morality, Revolution, and Sexuality in Left-Wing Guerrilla Organizations in 1970s Argentina.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 23.3 (2014): 415–450.
- Cosse, Isabella, Karina Felitti, and Valeria Manzano. Los sesenta de otra manera: vida cotidiana, género y sexualidades. Buenos Aires: Prometeo, 2010.
- D’Antonio, Débora. Deseo y represión. Sexualidad, género y Estado en la historia argentina reciente. Buenos Aires: Imago Mundi, 2015.
- Feijoó, María del Carmen, and Marcela Nari. “Women in Argentina during the 1960s.” Latin American Perspectives 23.1 (Winter 1996): 7–27.
- Felitti, Karina. La revolución de la píldora. Sexualidad y política en los sesenta. Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2011.
- Gentili, Agostina. Pequeños cuerpos. Familias, adopciones y justicia en Córdoba 1957–1974. PhD diss., Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, 2016.
- Grammático, Karin. Mujeres Montoneras. Una historia de la Agrupación Evita, 1973–1974. Buenos Aires, Ediciones Luxemburg, 2011.
- Levín, Florencia. Humor y política en tiempos de represión. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2013.
- Manzano, Valeria. “Sex, Gender and the Making of the ‘Enemy With’ in Cold War Argentina.” Journal of Latin American Studies 47 (2014): 1–29.
- Manzano, Valeria. The Age of Youth in Argentina. Culture, Politics, and Sexuality from Perón to Videla. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
- Martínez, Paola. Género, política y revolución en los años setenta. Las mujeres del PRT-ERP. Buenos Aires: Imago Mundi, 2009.
- Oberti, Alejandra. Las revolucionarias. Militancia, vida cotidiana y afectividad en los setenta. Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2015.
- Peller, Mariela. Vida cotidiana, familia y revolución: la militancia en el PRT-ERP en la Argentina de los años sesenta y setenta. PhD diss., College of Social Sciences, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2013.
- Pérez, Inés. El hogar tecnificado. Familias, género y vida cotidiana, 1940–1970. Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2012.
- Pérez, Inés. “Entre las normas y sus usos. Servicio doméstico, trabajo, intimidad y justicia en el Consejo de Trabajo Doméstico (Buenos Aires, 1956–1962).” Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos, 2013.
- Pite, Rebekah. Creating a Common Table in Twentieth Century Argentina: Doña Petrona, Women and Food. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.
- Plotkin, Mariano. Freud en las Pampas. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2003.
- Pujol, Sergio. La década rebelde. Los años sesenta en la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 2002.
- Pujol, Sergio. “Rebeldes y modernos. Una cultura de los jóvenes.” In Nueva historia argentina. Violencia, proscripción y autoritarismo (1955–1976). Edited by Daniel James, 281–328. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2003.
- Rechini de Lattes, Zulma. “La participación económica femenina en la Argentina desde la segunda posguerra hasta 1970.” Buenos Aires: Cenep, 1980.
- Varela, Mirta. La televisión criolla. Desde sus inicios hasta la llegada del hombre a la luna (1951–1969). Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2005.
- Vassallo, Alejandra. “‘Las mujeres dicen basta’: movilización, política y orígenes del femenismo argentino en los 70.” In Historia, género y política en los ‘70. Edited by Andújar et al., 62–88. Buenos Aires: Seminaria Editora, 2005. Available online http://www.feminaria.com.ar.
- Villalta, Carla. Entregas y secuestros. El rol del Estado en la apropiación de niños. Buenos Aires: Ed. Del Puerto, 2012.
- Wainerman, Catalina. “Educación, familia y participación económica femenina en la Argentina.” Desarrollo Económico 72 (January–March 1979): 511–533.
1. Alfredo Lattes, Aspectos demográficos del proceso de redistribución espacial de la población en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: CENEP, 1980).
2. Elisa Pastoriza y Juan Carlos Torre, “La democratización del bienestar,” Nueva Historia Argentina. Los años peronistas, ed. Juan Carlos Torre (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2002), 257–312.
3. Isabella Cosse, Estigmas de nacimiento (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006). Regarding the middle class, Ezequiel Adamovsky, Historia de la clase media argentina (Buenos Aires: Planeta, 2009).
4. Pablo Gerchunoff and Lucas Llach, El ciclo de la ilusión y el desencanto (Buenos Aires: Ariel, 1998), 322.
5. Rosa Aboy, “Arquitecturas de la vida doméstica,” Anuario IEHS 23 (2008): 355–384.
6. Horacio A. Torres, El mapa social de Buenos Aires, 1940–1990 (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Fadu, 2006), 31.
7. Alfredo Lattes, Aspectos demográficos del proceso de redistribución espacial, 24.
8. Isabella Cosse, Mafalda: historia social y política (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2014).
9. Inés Pérez, El hogar tecnificado (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2012), 210–214. Regarding television, Mirta Varela, La televisión criolla (Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2005).
10. Edith Pantelides, La fecundidad argentina desde mediados del siglo XX (Buenos Aires: CENEP, 1989).
11. Isabella Cosse, Estigmas de nacimiento.
12. Isabella Cosse, Pareja, sexualidad y familia en los años sesenta (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2010).
13. Isabella Cosse, Pareja, sexualidad y familia en los años sesenta.
14. Regarding censorship, see Andrés Avellaneda, Censura, autoritarismo y cultura: Argentina 1960–1983/1 (Buenos Aires: CEDAL, 1986); Valeria Manzano, Journal of the History of Sexuality 14.4 (October 2005): 433–461. Regarding traditionalist actors, Lilia Vázquez Lorda, “Intervenciones e iniciativas católicas en el ámbito familiar. La Liga de Madres y Padres de Familia (1950–1970)” (master’s thesis, Universidad de San Andrés, 2011).
15. Isabella Cosse, Pareja, sexualidad y familia en los años sesenta; Valeria Manzano, The Age of Youth in Argentina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014); and Karina Felitti, La revolución de la píldora. Sexualidad y política en los sesenta (Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2011).
16. Valeria Manzano, The Age of Youth in Argentina.
17. Sergio Pujol, “Rebeldes y modernos. Una cultura de los jóvenes,” Nueva historia argentina. Violencia, proscripción y autoritarismo (1955–1976), ed. Daniel James (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2003), 281–328; and Valeria Manzano, The Age of Youth in Argentina.
18. On elopement, Valeria Manzano, The Age of Youth in Argentina, 106–114.
19. Isabella Cosse, “Argentine Mothers and Fathers and the New Psychological Paradigm of Child-Rearing (1958–1973),” Journal of Family History 35.2 (2010): 180–202.
20. Isabella Cosse, Pareja, sexualidad y familia en los años sesenta.
21. Regarding the pill, Karina Felitti, La revolución de la píldora. Regarding adoption, Carla Villalta, Entregas y secuestros. El rol del Estado en la apropiación de niños (Buenos Aires: Ed. Del Puerto, 2012); and Agostina Gentili, “Pequeños cuerpos. Familias, adopciones y justicia en Córdoba 1957–1974” (PhD diss., Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, 2016).
22. Isabella Cosse, Pareja, sexualidad y familia en los años sesenta.
23. Isabella Cosse, Mafalda: historia social y política (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2014).
24. Zulma Rechini de Lattes, “La participación económica femenina en la Argentina desde la segunda posguerra hasta 1970” (Buenos Aires: Cenep, 1980) and Catalina Wainerman, “Educación, familia y participación económica femenina en la Argentina,” in Desarrollo Económico 72 (January–March, 1979): 511–533.
25. Inés Pérez, “Entre las normas y sus usos,” Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos, 2013.
26. The literature on the role of women in leftist organizations is vast. I refer to the collective works, Andrea Andújar et al., Historia, género y política en los ‘70 (Buenos Aires: Seminaria Editora, 2005) and by the same authors, De minifaldas, militantes y revoluciones (Buenos Aires: Luxembourg, 2009).
27. Oscar Terán, Nuestros años 60. La formación de la nueva izquierda intelectual argentina, 1956–1966 (Buenos Aires: El Cielo por Asalto, 1993); Silvia Sigal, Intelectuales y poder en la Argentina. La década del 60 (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2002); and Carlos Altamirano, Peronismo y cultura de izquierda (Buenos Aires: Temas Grupo Editorial, 2001).
28. A general overview, Nueva Historia Argentina. Violencia, proscripción y autoritarismo (1955–1976), ed. Daniel James (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 2003).
29. Paola Martínez, Género, política y revolución en los años setenta. Las mujeres del PRT-ERP (Buenos Aires: Imago Mundi, 2009); Vera Carnovale, Los combatientes. Historia del PRT-ERP (Buenos Aires: Siglos XXI, 2011); Alejandra Oberti, Las revolucionarias. Militancia, vida cotidiana y afectividad en los setenta (Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2015); and Isabella Cosse, “Infidelities: Morality, Revolution, and Sexuality in Left-Wing Guerrilla Organizations in 1970s Argentina,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 23.3 (2014): 415–450.
30. Mario Rapoport, Historia económica, política y social de la Argentina, 1880–2003 (Buenos Aires: Emecé, 2008).
31. Rebekah Pite, Creating a Common Table in Twentieth Century Argentina: Doña Petrona, Women and Food (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013), 151–181.
32. Guillermo O’Donnell,1966–1973. El Estado burocrático autoritario (Buenos Aires: Editorial de Belgrano, 1982); and Richard Gillespie, Soldados de Perón. Los Montoneros (Buenos Aires: Grijalbo, 1987).
33. Oscar Terán, Nuestros años 60. La formación de la nueva izquierda intelectual argentina, 1956–1966 (Buenos Aires: El Cielo por Asalto, 1993); Silvia Sigal, Intelectuales y poder en la Argentina. La década del 60 (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2002); and Carlos Altamirano, “La pequeña burguesía, una clase en el purgatorio,” in Peronismo y cultura de izquierda (Buenos Aires: Temas Grupo Editorial, 2001).
34. Judith Filc, Entre el parentesco y la política. Familia y dictadura, 1976–1983 (Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos, 1997); and María Matilde Ollier, La creencia y la pasión. Privado, público y político en la izquierda revolucionaria (Buenos Aires: Ariel, 1998).
35. María del Carmen Feijoó and Marcela Nari, “Women in Argentina during the 1960s,” Latin American Perspectives 23.1 (Winter 1996): 7–27.
36. Karina Felitti, “El placer de elegir. Anticoncepción y liberación sexual en la década del sesenta,” in Historia de las mujeres en la Argentina. Siglo XX, eds. Fernanda Gil Lozano et al. (Buenos Aires: Taurus, 2000), 155–171; Mariano Plotkin, Freud en las Pampas (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2003); Mirta Varela, La televisión criolla. Desde sus inicios hasta la llegada del hombre a la luna (1951–1969) (Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2005); and Laura Podalsky, Specular City: Transforming Culture, Consumption, and Space in Buenos Aires, 1955–1973 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004).
37. Sergio Pujol, La década rebelde. Los años sesenta en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Emecé, 2002).
38. Isabella Cosse, Karina Felitti, and Valeria Manzano, Los sesenta de otra manera: vida cotidiana, género y sexualidades (Buenos Aires: Prometeo, 2010).
39. See Karina Felitti, La revolución de la píldora. Sexualidad y política en los sesenta (Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2011); Carla Villalta, Entregas y secuestros. El rol del Estado en la apropiación de niños (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Del Puerto, 2012); and Inés Pérez, El hogar tecnificado. Familias, género y vida cotidiana, 1940–1970 (Buenos Aires, Biblos, 2012).
40. Andrea Andújar et al., De minifaldas, militantes y revoluciones (Buenos Aires: Luxemburg, 2009); Karin Grammático, Mujeres Montoneras. Una historia de la Agrupación Evita, 1973–1974 (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Luxemburg, 2011); Vera Carnovale, Los combatientes. Historia del PRT-ERP (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2011); Alejandra Oberti, Las revolucionarias. Militancia, vida cotidiana y afectividad en los setenta (Buenos Aires: Edhasa, 2015); Paola Martínez, Género, política y revolución en los años setenta. Las mujeres del PRT-ERP (Buenos Aires: Imago Mundi, 2009); Mariela Peller, “Vida cotidiana, familia y revolución: la militancia en el PRT-ERP en la Argentina de los años sesenta y setenta” (PhD diss., College of Social Sciences, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2013). Regarding the feminist and gay and lesbian organizations, see A. Vassallo, “‘Las mujeres dicen basta’: movilización, política y orígenes del femenismo argentino en los 70,” in Historia, género y política en los ‘70, eds. Andújar et al. (Buenos Aires: Seminaria Editora, 2005), 62–88. Available online http://www.feminaria.com.ar; Trebisacce, Catalina, “Una batalla sexual en los setenta: las feministas y los militantes homosexuales apostando a otra economía de los placeres,” in Deseo y represión. Sexualidad, género y Estado en la historia argentina reciente, ed. Débora D’Antonio (Buenos Aires: Imago Mundi, 2015).
41. Isabella Cosse, Mafalda: historia social y política; Florencia Levín, Humor y política en tiempos de repression (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2013); Eugenia Scarzanella, Abril. Un editor italiano en Buenos Aires de Perón a Videla (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2016). Ezequiel Lozano, Sexualidades disidentes en el teatro. Buenos Aires, años 60 (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2014); Agostina Gentili, “Pequeños cuerpos. Familias, adopciones y justicia en Córdoba 1957–1974” (PhD diss., Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, 2016); Julián Delgado, “Música y política en el grupo de rock Sui Generis,” A Contracorriente 13.3 (2016): 18–49. Available online http://acontracorriente.chass.ncsu.edu/index.php/acontracorriente/article/view/1415; Guido Vespucci, “Explorando un intrincado triangulo,” Historia Crítica 43 (January–April 2011): 174–197; Mara Burkart, Risa, cultura y política en los años setenta (Buenos Aires: Miño y Dávila, 2017); and Pablo Ben and Joaquín Insausti, “Dictatorial Rule and Sexual Politics in Argentina: The Case of the Frente de Liberación Homosexual, 1967–1976,” Hispanic American Historical Review 97.2 (2017): 297–325.