A deeper look into collective trauma

Rocco Carbone, CONICET researcher, proposes a philosophical outlook to analyze the most significant events in Paraguay.

Rocco Carbone, CONICET assistant researcher at the Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento. Photo: courtesy researcher.

The study covers the tragedy of the ‘Ycuá Bolaños’ mall in 2004, and the ‘Aranda case´ in 1959, both of which took place in Paraguay. Rocco Carbone, CONICET assistant researcher at the Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento, analyses those events from the point of view of collective shock in order to retrieve those stories and redefine their impact.


– From which point of view do you study these collective traumas or shocks?

My new book starts with the analysis of the last dictatorship in Paraguay and then I expand the time limits of my enquiry – the issue I focus on- towards other traumas ranging from the Chaco’s war (1932-1935) to the tragedy of the Ycuá Bolaños’ mall (2004). In the case of the latter, for instance, I recovered it from a tale called ‘Crónica de un sobreviviente del Ycuá Bolaños’ [Chronicle of a survivor of Ycuá Bolaños] by Catalo Bordón, in which the main character is a country person who lost all his family in the fire. It is more related to oral and popular history reconstructed by literature. The most interesting part is that it covers two problems: the tragedy of the mall and the forced displacement of the rural population.


-What prompted the selection of book’s title?

It has to do with a word that cannot be used flippantly in Paraguay because it is a provocation to the reader and a contemptuous term related to the second chapter, which was about ‘the 108’. It is a book about Paraguay and it deals with certain traumas. One of its subtitles, for instance, covers the Stronato or Stronismo, which is connected with the Paraguayan dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner which started in 1954 and ended in 1989.


– What does ‘los 108’ refer to?

In Paraguay, the term emerged from the case of Bernardo Aranda, a radio host whose body was found burned at the Radio Comuneros and was thought to be bisexual. For the press, it was a ‘crime of passion’, and it was linked with his alleged homosexuality. At this point, the regime intervened in the case and conducted a raid on the community to clarify the cause of that death. Thus, for several reasons, a number of 108 homosexuals were gathered together and tortured.
-Is the term still used?

The term has the same meaning nowadays and, for instance, to be called ‘108’ is a heinous offence. It is currently in force with the same meaning it used to have during the dictatorship. For instance, the number 108 cannot appear on number plates, extension numbers of institutions’ telephone exchanges, or the houses are numbered from 107 to 109. Dictatorial regimes of Latin America tried to eliminate the diversamente deseante. This refers to an individual or diverse subjectivities that have a different way of thinking as regards the hegemonic order that prevailed in the Latin American dictatorships, that wished to establish and institutionalize a regulation for terror; a virile, militarist, heteropatriarchal regulation.
A great part of your book is focused on the Paraguayan dictatorship, how do you deal with that subject matter?

The first chapter recovers a novel called ‘El invierno de Gunter’ [Gunter’s winter] written by Juan Manuel Marcos, and ‘Viento sur’ [Southern wind] a short film directed by Paz Encina in which popular rebel characters appear. The short was presented at the BAFICI in 2010 in Buenos Aires. The novel is about a homosexual poet that lives in Corrientes, Argentina. It was written in 1987 but was set in 1982, the year of the Malvinas war, thus making a literary production with two dictatorial experiences. I place these two narratives in parallel with ‘Insurgencias del recuerdo (2009)’ [Insurgencies of memories] by Catalo Bogado because they both make, depict and stabilize an apparatus that highlights the stronato’s victims as a way to restore a community destroyed by State violence.

Rocco Carbone presented his book ‘Putos de fuga’ in Asunción del Paraguay on August 8th, 2014, at the Augusto Roa Bastos Library.

  • By María Bocconi