Look­ing for Ali­cia: The Unfin­ished Life of an Argen­tin­ian Rebel

Marc Raboy

  • Review
By – April 4, 2022

Look­ing For Ali­cia begins when Cana­di­an aca­d­e­m­ic Marc Raboy googles his own name and dis­cov­ers an entire net­work of Raboys in Argenti­na. He trav­els to meet them, but what begins as a sim­ple fam­i­ly sto­ry quick­ly trans­forms itself into a Dan­tesque jour­ney through the mine­fields of Argentina’s his­tor­i­cal memory.”

Ali­cia Raboy was a jour­nal­ist and a mem­ber of the Mon­toneros, an Argen­tin­ian urban guer­ril­la group. In 1976, Ali­cia was ambushed by the secret police of the right-wing Jun­ta that over­threw the demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed gov­ern­ment of Juan Perón and ruled Argenti­na from 1976 to 1983. She van­ished into the labyrinth of clan­des­tine deten­tion and tor­ture cen­ters that were fix­tures of Argenti­na under the Jun­ta, nev­er to be seen again. She became one of the Desa­pare­ci­dos, the dis­ap­peared,” one of the esti­mat­ed thir­ty thou­sand stu­dents, left-wing activists, intel­lec­tu­als, and trade union­ists who were casu­al­ties of Argentina’s Dirty War.”

It’s not just their shared name that draws Marc to Alicia’s sto­ry. They are the same age and, as a young man, Marc was an activist as well, drawn into the fer­ment of rev­o­lu­tion­ary pol­i­tics in 1970s Québec. Cana­da was not Argenti­na and Marc nev­er ran the risks of his Argen­tin­ian con­tem­po­raries — a favorite method of dis­ap­pear­ing” peo­ple was to tor­ture them almost to death, drug them, then toss them while still alive from mil­i­tary air­craft into the Rio de la Pla­ta. But in her rebel­lious, uncom­pro­mis­ing spir­it, her absolute con­vic­tion that a bet­ter world is pos­si­ble, Marc rec­og­nizes a kin­dred spir­it. Ali­cia was not a dove … ” recalls one old com­rade, “ … [s]he was very strong. She had the flame. She was our Joan of Arc.”

Forty-five years lat­er, it is easy to for­get just how hor­rif­ic the mil­i­tary regimes that ruled Argenti­na, Chile and Uruguay were. As the most reli­able agent[s] for U.S. inter­ests in the region … ‚” how­ev­er, they trans­formed the lat­ter stages of the Cold War into a Hot War on their own peo­ple, all in the inter­ests of preser­va­tion — as the Argen­tin­ian jun­ta put it —of West­ern, Chris­t­ian civilization.”

What comes across very clear­ly in Raboy’s ren­der­ing of Alicia’s sto­ry is how dis­cred­it­ed the notion of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary” has become, espe­cial­ly in a left-wing con­text. But over the past cen­tu­ry, to be a rev­o­lu­tion­ary has often been the only moral response to a world gone mad. Cer­tain­ly, South Amer­i­ca under the Jun­tas qual­i­fies. But Alicia’s sto­ry is also a reminder of how often it is Jews who hear, and heed, that call. Argen­tin­ian Jews like Ali­cia were at the fore­front of resis­tance to cru­el­ty and repres­sion. The Jun­ta didn’t just tar­get Jews, but it was par­tic­u­lar­ly bru­tal in its treat­ment of Jews — part­ly because of its deformed” ver­sion of Chris­tian­i­ty and per­haps also because, like Ali­cia, so many Jew­ish left­ists and intel­lec­tu­als opposed it. In an envi­ron­ment in which phys­i­cal exter­mi­na­tion of left­ists was the dictatorship’s final solu­tion,’” Argen­tin­ian Jews had lit­tle choice.

Look­ing for Ali­cia is an impor­tant book. In giv­ing a face and a name to one prin­ci­pled vic­tim of the Dirty War,” it memo­ri­al­izes all of them. It is a stark reminder that there are moral choic­es to be made. Like Ali­cia, even­tu­al­ly we all must decide which side we are on.

Angus Smith is a retired Cana­di­an intel­li­gence offi­cial, writer and Jew­ish edu­ca­tor who lives in rur­al Nova Scotia.

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