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The first Garden of the Righteous in South America

was established in Mar del Plata, Argentina

On September 8, 2023 the first Garden of the Righteous in Argentina was inaugurated. It arises in one of the places that suffered more the season of Argentinian repressions and violence, since during Videla’s military dictatorship were there established several underground centers of detention (CCD), in which people were detained because of their social or political activism. Among them, hundreds are still desaparecidos nowadays. 35 people were condemned because of those crimes.

At 2pm local time, the first Garden of the Righteous in South America is born in Mar del Plata, in the province of Buenos Aires. The opening ceremony has a deep symbolic meaning, since it was held just over a month from the Argentinian presidential elections, in the middle of a pressing social and economic crisis occurring in a country where even the terrible inheritance of the many desaparecidos has become a topic of pre-electoral dispute.

Why a Garden of the Righteous in Argentina? Because this is a place of hospitality, able to integrate different cultures and minorities; moreover, Argentina experienced, during the dictatorship, a genocide committed by the state, against those citizens which were considered enemies by the Videla’s Junta. As a jew, this path reminds me the jewish path of death during the Holocaust. A journey towards the final solution”. Gabriele Nissim, President of Gariwo Foundation explained with those words the path that brought to the establishment of the first Garden of the Righteous in South America. “Today, in Argentina, people are struggling against negiationism and denial of the past. Many would like the whole historical background to be removed. They say those crimes were not promoted by the State, but were the result of a civil war fought between opposite political extremism. It’s like stating that the victims are guilty for their fate”.

The Garden arises in one of the most stunning views of the coastal city of Mar del Plata, in the middle of the Plazoleta dedicated to Astor Piazzola. It is promoted by the Gariwo Foundation, alongside the Municipalidad de General Pueyrreden of Mar del Plata and the association Casa D’Italia.

The choice of the Righteous to be honored at the Garden of Mar del Plata well represents the intention to remember the good actions made by local figures, along with other Righteous who struggled for human dignity worldwide.

It’s particularly meaningful the choice to remember, with a plaque and a tree, two key figures for the freedom of speech and educational independence: the student Silvia Ana Filler and Maria del Carmen “Coca” Maggi, principal of the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy of the University of Mar del Plata, killed respectively in 1971 and 1975 - before Videla’s putsch - by the far-right terroristic organization Concentración Nacional Universitaria. Along with them, others figures have been honored: Claudio Hugo “Pocho” Lepratti, an Argentinian activist assassinated by the Santa Fe police department in 2011, during a pacific protest against the economic crisis; and three fundamental international figures: Pierantonio Costa, the Italian consul in Kigali who saved 375 children during the Rwandan genocide; Armin T. Wegner, the german writer who denounced the Armenian genocide with his pictures and asked to Hitler, in 1933, to interrupt the persecutions against the jews, being arrested and tortured because of that; Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux who provided transit visas to the persecuted jews.

Along with Gabriele Nissim, the ceremony was attended by the Secretary of Government of the Municipalidad de General Puyerredon, Santiago Bonifati, and the Italian consul in Argentina Santo Purello. In particular, the participation of Lila Filler, Silvia Ana’s sister, provoked great emotion.

The establishment of the Gardens of Mar del Plata was welcomed with satisfaction by Vera Vigevani Jarach, an Italian-Argentinian writer descendent from a jew family, who survived the concentration camps and later became, after the disappearance of her daughter Franca, a mother of Plaza de Mayo. “The Gardens of the Righteous should be disseminated all over the world, because they teach that everyone must take his own responsibility and that it is always possible to make something for helping the others”, Vigevani stated after a meeting with the Gariwo’s delegation.

The ceremony was also attended by the representatives of public and educational institution, along with the ones of the Jewish and Armenian communities. Furthermore, the Gariwo’s delegation met, during its visit, several associations involved in memory and human rights and political representatives, with the aim of promoting new projects in Argentina and ask for the recognition of an official Day of the Righteous in the country, on the model of the recurrence adopted by the European parliament and celebrated every year on March 6th.

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Opening ceremony of the Garden of the Righteous in Mar del Plata

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