By Laura Boyani
I have no memories of my first March of Silence. I don’t remember how small I was when they took me for the first time, if they carried me in their arms or if I was old enough to walk alone. However, I grew up with it, surrounded by photos and knowing, somehow, that one of those belonged to my grandfather. I grew up knowing that my grandfather, Otermín Montes de Oca, was missing.
Thus, the March of Silence was always a meeting place; of meeting with my grandfather, of discovery and hug. To find it there, surrounded and surrounded by a shocking silence, that when it breaks to shout present, brings it (and brings them) to the present.
The 20th of May have something special, they embrace our colleagues, who disappeared for dreaming and fighting for a different, fairer, more supportive society. They have the meeting in the construction for a collective memory, which refuses to forget, which prohibits oblivion. There, in the meeting, the struggle is reaffirmed, the conviction that the truth, at some point, can and will triumph.
Facing this new March of Silence, I enclose a letter written to my grandfather, in search of finding him:
Grandpa… How strange it would be for you to be called that, if when they took you away you were just a father and a husband. But yes, time knew how to make you a grandfather; grandfather of a few, and among them of me.
It’s strange writing this when you don’t know me. But I’m Laura, your granddaughter, daughter of that girl who at the age of eleven witnessed your kidnapping and she didn’t see you come back. Your granddaughter, who owes her name to you.
I could tell you so many things, about me, about us, about your whole family. After all, you did not see us born or grow. But if there’s one thing I could talk to you about, it’s stolen opportunities. When they kidnapped you, they robbed your children of the chance to grow up by your side, to play with their father, to laugh and cry with you. They took away from us, your grandchildren, the possibility of having you. And so, they left a very, very deep open wound.
It is strange, perhaps, but from that wound you grew. Forbidding oblivion, you grew with and in us. We grew up seeing you immortalized in a single photo, stealing fragments of who you were by hearsay. Assembling a puzzle from the memory of others.
That’s why, sometimes, it’s easy to imagine yourself here, to imagine how different everything would be if they hadn’t disappeared. Imagine all the possibilities of something different.
I imagine you, grandfather, big, tall, with those receding hairlines from the family heirloom. I imagine you serious, of few words, with a severe look but that knows of tenderness. I imagine you sitting at the table, with mate, listening to Zitarrosa in the dining room of the house that witnessed your absence. (Could it be that you liked to listen to Skinny?).
I imagine you, grandfather, in that same house, watching us all grow up. Serving us snacks, watching us on the way to school until we lost sight of each other. Would you have lifted us up? Would we have seen the world from your shoulders?
I see you, grandfather. I see you firm in your convictions, in your ideas. Firm when extending the hand to the other. Determined that we do not lack anything, teaching us about solidarity. With dreams and hopes, trying to build a different world.
It is there, perhaps, where it is easier for me to find you. In your ideas, in your dreams and in your struggles, in your integrity and conviction.
And yet, sometimes it’s hard to imagine you, grandfather, from love and not from pain. Sometimes the simplest thing is to ask yourself: why? Feeling the inhuman cold of the shed where they kept you and wondering: what did they do to you? What will you have felt? What would you have thought and remembered while they stole your life?
I hope, grandfather, you know how to forgive for sometimes remembering you like this and not holding on to your humanity. I hope you know how to forgive for sometimes not being able to do more.
They stole so much from us that sometimes only those fragments remain, the memory of those who knew and loved you, and of us who, in a certain way, knew how to find you. In a photo, in the middle of a deafening silence, we find you.
That, grandfather, is the only thing left for us to do. Keep finding you.
Granddaughter of Otermin Montes de Oca, kidnapped and disappeared by fascism in 1975; militant of the UJC, newspaper El Popular