El teatro como guardián y precursor de la memoria colectiva en tres obras de autores uruguayos



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A popular saying proclaims that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. Social memory is an integral ingredient to social well being. Since any society’s present reality is shaped by its past, it is impossible to create a sense of social cohesion without recognizing the events that have created and shaped that present. Reflection on this past, then, should be considered a valuable social trait. All societies, whether large or small, possess defining events, customs, and relevant individuals particular to its self-understanding. Response to those important pages of the past rarely remain uniform for all times. Emerging information and value changes affect how a society looks at its past. Different disciplines also review individuals, events, and ideas from different vantage points. All of this comprises an important process of self-reflection.

It is my premise that the significant events that took place in Uruguay in the decades of the 1970’s and 1980’s need to be remembered periodically by the next generations so that they don’t happen again. These events occupy a special position in the history of the nation due to two things: their uniqueness and severity. Uruguay has long been an anomaly in Latin America. It possesses a high degree of urbanization, literacy, and ranks high in most indicators of quality of life. It has enjoyed, for most of its history, social stability and orderly governmental processes.

Political unrest began to take place in the late 1960’s which led to a coup d’etat in 1973 and a resulting de facto government which ended in elections in 1985. Urban violence and suspension of civil rights that included torture and the dissapearance of hundreds of people who opposed the regime, characterized this experience. For a society long accustomed to peace, these events proved to be extremely traumatic.

How can Uruguayan society almost 20 years later appropriate this experience? How can other societies learn from the Uruguayan experience? Certainly a review by disciplines such as history, political science, sociology and psychology come to mind. The contention of this dissertation is that theater can take its legitimate place alongside other important vantage points as a vehicle of social reflection. It possesses unique characteristics that enable it to make a valuable contribution. Included among these is its ability to transport those who experience it in the present to a reality that is fading into the past.

Perhaps no other phrase resonates more with Uruguayans and other Latin Americans who experienced the tumultuous events of those decades than that of "nunca más" (never again). For those who have been born in later years or in other places, privileged not to have lived the experience "en carne propia" (in one’s own flesh) theater makes the past come alive. This dissertation analyzes Mario Benedetti’s Pedro y el Capitán, Mauricio Rosencof’s El hijo que espera, and Carlos Manuel Varela’s La Esperanza S.A., demonstrating the value of these plays in the process of preserving the collective memory of the events which so altered Uruguayan society and which, in turn, can serve as an example to other societies.



Varela, Carlos Manuel, Rosencof, Mauricio, Benedetti, Mario, Coup d'etat, Uruguay, Social history