The Dialectic of Estrangement: Memory and the Production of Places of Wealth and Poverty in the Argentinean Chaco

Excerpt From Essay

"In the mid-1990s, the memory of their past labor experiences at San Martin del Tabacal was a recurrent theme among the Toba who live on the middle course of the Pilcomayo River. At one point or another, conversations with them led to anecdotes about this sugar plantation located at the foot of the Andes, over 300 kilometers to the west of their lands in the Argentinean Chaco. These memories are full of references to the harsh working conditions, the high death toll among their children, and the fear they experienced in the cane fields, epitomized in the threat posed by the "devils" (evil spirits) that came down from the mountains and spread diseases among them. Yet, side by side with these accounts, most adult members of this indigenous group remember San Martfn del Tabacal with nostalgia, to the point that this nostalgia often over- shadows the horror that this place evokes in their subjectivity. This nostalgia is for a lost source of wealth. This memory of the plantation acquires much of its force in a complex dialectic that is both temporal and spatial: that is. this memory is culturally constructed first, in its contrast to the material poverty most Toba experience in the present, three decades after the migrations came to a halt, and second, in contrast to a different place—the bush of the Chaco low- lands where they live, which most of them often associate with poverty and unsatisfied needs."

"The Dialectic of Estrangement: Memory and the Production of Places of Wealth and Poverty in the Argentinean Chaco," Gastón Gordillo (3).

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