This is a collective and anonymous testimony of former political prisoners detained in Coronda, Santa Fe, one of the maximum-security prisons in Argentina during the last civil-military dictatorship (1976-1983).
It was first published in 2003 under the title “Del otro lado de la mirilla” (“On the other side of the peephole”) and had an important impact both nationally and internationally. In 2020, the French translation was published under the title “Ni fous, ni morts” (Neither mad nor dead), and now the Italian version, entitled “Grand Hotel Coronda”, has just been published.
The book is one of the first volumes of its kind published in Latin America and is the result of the work of a group of authors brought together in the Asociación El Periscopio (The Periscope association).
“More than a publishing project, we conceive “Grand Hotel Coronda” as an educational and awareness-raising proposal to strengthen solidarity between peoples,” explains Italian scientific researcher Enrico Vagnoni, who is a member of the project’s Management Group, composed of some twenty members who made its publication possible.
For Vagnoni, the main objective of “Grand Hotel Coronda” is to “bring a message of hope and solidarity, which reinforces in Italy, in Switzerland, or wherever it is read, the global challenges that the new generations must face. For example in the fight for climate protection, for gender equality, against the merciless exclusion of refugees, for the collective reconstruction of memory”.
According to Vagnoni, the content of this 410-page book, organised into 39 chapters, “contributes and updates values such as resistance to the strategies of terror, solidarity and collective commitment”.
The book expresses the “conviction that memory is the central component of a people’s identity. And that, consequently, it is not possible to build a truly democratic society on the basis of forgetting, denial and impunity”.
This is the opinion of Augusto Saro, president of the Civil Association El Periscopio (The Periscope) of the former political prisoners of Coronda, who, together with other co-authors, has presented the book in different European countries. The conviction to work actively for memory is shared by many other social, trade union and political actors in Argentinean society, for example the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and human rights organisations.
When they talk about reconstructing memory, says Saro, they mean “understanding the civil-military dictatorship as the instrument of a real strategic plan of regional projection that sought to eliminate all opposition and reformat society in all its aspects. In Argentina, this plan led to a veritable genocide, with hundreds of deaths, thirty thousand disappeared, more than ten thousand political prisoners and thousands of internal and external exiles”.
The reconstruction of memory must serve to find the truth and punish those responsible.
El Periscopio was born as an association to publish “Del otro lado de la mirilla” (“On the other side of the peephole”) and became a legal actor by bringing to trial the two National Gendarmerie commanders.
The National Gendarmerie commanders led Coronda and in 2018, were sentenced to 22 and 17 years in prison.
The judges found that the brutal regime in that prison constituted a crime against humanity.
The authors ask what the difference is between being killed in a concentration camp in Europe or in one in Latin America; between dying in the face of a Latin American dictatorship or as a refugee in the waters of the Mediterranean when trying to escape famine, war or climate crisis.