Sacrifice and Martyrdom: Commemoration and Protest in Córdoba, Argentina, 1966

Friday, January 8, 2016: 3:10 PM
International Ballroom A (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Jennifer L. Schaefer, Emory University
On July 29, 1966, the Argentine federal police violently occupied the public University of Buenos Aires. This confrontation, in which police brutally beat students, came to be known as The Night of the Long Sticks. Images of bloodied students polarized national opinion about the military government that had assumed power a month earlier. This paper analyzes two ways in which students in the provincial capital Córdoba  responded to this assault on university autonomy: a hunger strike in a Catholic church, and the commemoration of a student killed in a confrontation with the police. 

On August 18, 1966, a  group of 72 students entered the Cristo Obrero Catholic church and began a hunger strike to protest the university occupation. A few weeks later, on September 7, 1966, the student and worker Santiago Pampillón was shot during a large protest. The hunger strike drew to a close on September 10, 1966 as students and their allies began to organize homages to Santiago Pampillón even before his death on September 12, 1966. 

Drawing on newsletters and flyers from student groups, press accounts, and photographs, this presentation analyzes how the hunger strike and the homages to Pampillón drew on tropes of sacrifice and martyrdom to oppose military repression. These forms of popular protest and commemoration invoked the vulnerability of student bodies and emphasized putting one’s body on the line. The presentation attends to how protests moved around the city in a form of pilgrimage, and occupied strategic points as a way of making sacrifice visible. Engaging with scholarship on political protest and performance, commemoration and mourning, and collective memory, this presentation argues that the hunger strike and commemoration of Pampillón not only protested for a cause and commemorated a life, but also made present histories of sacrifice and martyrdom.