100 Words: Photographers Speak

100 Words: On The Shadows Of The Disappeared

Alicia Cadenas and Ariel Soto sought exile in Argentina after the dictatorship took power in Uruguay in 1973. They were both kidnapped in 1976 during Operation Condor, were interrogated in a concentration camp, smuggled by the military back to Uruguay, and spent more than two years in jail before seeking exile in Sweden. They divorced in 1985 and decided to get back together 25 years later.

hide captionAlicia Cadenas and Ariel Soto sought exile in Argentina after the dictatorship took power in Uruguay in 1973. They were both kidnapped in 1976 during Operation Condor, were interrogated in a concentration camp, smuggled by the military back to Uruguay, and spent more than two years in jail before seeking exile in Sweden. They divorced in 1985 and decided to get back together 25 years later.

Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
Mirta Clara and her husband were arrested in 1975 for involvement with the Montoneros political group. Once in custody, she was tortured while pregnant with her second son, who today suffers mental problems. Her husband was executed in what is known as the Margarita Belen Massacre. She was finally released in 1983 and today works as a human rights advocate and psychologist in Buenos Aires. i i

hide captionMirta Clara and her husband were arrested in 1975 for involvement with the Montoneros political group. Once in custody, she was tortured while pregnant with her second son, who today suffers mental problems. Her husband was executed in what is known as the Margarita Belen Massacre. She was finally released in 1983 and today works as a human rights advocate and psychologist in Buenos Aires.

Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
Mirta Clara and her husband were arrested in 1975 for involvement with the Montoneros political group. Once in custody, she was tortured while pregnant with her second son, who today suffers mental problems. Her husband was executed in what is known as the Margarita Belen Massacre. She was finally released in 1983 and today works as a human rights advocate and psychologist in Buenos Aires.

Mirta Clara and her husband were arrested in 1975 for involvement with the Montoneros political group. Once in custody, she was tortured while pregnant with her second son, who today suffers mental problems. Her husband was executed in what is known as the Margarita Belen Massacre. She was finally released in 1983 and today works as a human rights advocate and psychologist in Buenos Aires.

Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura

In 1975, the right-wing dictatorships of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay embarked on a military plan called Operation Condor. The mission was to eliminate opponents to the regimes. Many of the victims came to be known as the "Disappeared," because the government would simply make its detractors vanish.

It's estimated that at least 60,000 people died as a result of Operation Condor. From the Amazon jungle in Brazil to the cold lands of Patagonia, thousands of victims were placed in unmarked graves, while others were thrown alive into the ocean from airplanes.

  • Police arrest a man in Montevideo, Uruguay, during a protest. (Archival photo by Aurelio Gonzalez)
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    Police arrest a man in Montevideo, Uruguay, during a protest. (Archival photo by Aurelio Gonzalez)
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • A woman lays dead on the side of the road after the car she was in was shot by right-wing paramilitary forces known as Triple A (Argentine Anti-communist Alliance) on the outskirts of La Plata, Argentina.
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    A woman lays dead on the side of the road after the car she was in was shot by right-wing paramilitary forces known as Triple A (Argentine Anti-communist Alliance) on the outskirts of La Plata, Argentina.
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • The archival mug shot of a political prisoner in Asuncion, Paraguay.
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    The archival mug shot of a political prisoner in Asuncion, Paraguay.
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • A political prisoner in Paraguay.
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    A political prisoner in Paraguay.
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • The remains of "La Escuelita," a clandestine detention and torture center used by the army to interrogate and kill left-wing militants in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, in February 2012.
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    The remains of "La Escuelita," a clandestine detention and torture center used by the army to interrogate and kill left-wing militants in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, in February 2012.

    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • Tati Almeida, a member of the Mothers of the May Square movement in Argentina. She says her son Alexander Almeida was arrested and disappeared in the early 1970s. She's shown here in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in August 2006.
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    Tati Almeida, a member of the Mothers of the May Square movement in Argentina. She says her son Alexander Almeida was arrested and disappeared in the early 1970s. She's shown here in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in August 2006.
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • Clothes hang to dry in the Punta de Rieles jail in Montevideo. This jail was used during the dictatorship in Uruguay as a jail for political prisoners, and is currently being used for ordinary prisoners. Montevideo, Uruguay, February 2012.
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    Clothes hang to dry in the Punta de Rieles jail in Montevideo. This jail was used during the dictatorship in Uruguay as a jail for political prisoners, and is currently being used for ordinary prisoners. Montevideo, Uruguay, February 2012.
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • Lauro Santos is a Brazilian farmer who lost his arm when he grabbed an army grenade by mistake during the early 1970s. His brother was killed in the incident. He is photographed here in his home in Sao Joao do Araguaia, Brazil, August 2011.
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    Lauro Santos is a Brazilian farmer who lost his arm when he grabbed an army grenade by mistake during the early 1970s. His brother was killed in the incident. He is photographed here in his home in Sao Joao do Araguaia, Brazil, August 2011.
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • Maria Santucho is the daughter of an Argentine militant, Oscar Santucho, who disappeared in 1976 at the hands of the military. She was also arrested and forced into exile in 1976, and has lived in Cuba since then. Havana, Cuba, December 2006
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    Maria Santucho is the daughter of an Argentine militant, Oscar Santucho, who disappeared in 1976 at the hands of the military. She was also arrested and forced into exile in 1976, and has lived in Cuba since then. Havana, Cuba, December 2006
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • Anahit Aharonian, looking from the window of her former cell in the Punta de Rieles prison in Montevideo, Uruguay. She is a descendant of survivors of the Armenian genocide and was born in Uruguay. She spent 12 years in jail. Montevideo, Uruguay, February 2012.
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    Anahit Aharonian, looking from the window of her former cell in the Punta de Rieles prison in Montevideo, Uruguay. She is a descendant of survivors of the Armenian genocide and was born in Uruguay. She spent 12 years in jail. Montevideo, Uruguay, February 2012.
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • A bathroom in Londres 38, a former clandestine detention and torture center during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in downtown Santiago, Chile, November 2008.
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    A bathroom in Londres 38, a former clandestine detention and torture center during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in downtown Santiago, Chile, November 2008.
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • Martin Almada, a former Paraguayan political prisoner and human rights lawyer in his former prison in Asuncion, Paraguay.
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    Martin Almada, a former Paraguayan political prisoner and human rights lawyer in his former prison in Asuncion, Paraguay.
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • The trial of former military men, accused of human rights violations during the military dictatorship in Argentina, in Buenos Aires in December 2009.
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    The trial of former military men, accused of human rights violations during the military dictatorship in Argentina, in Buenos Aires in December 2009.
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura
  • The trial of former Argentine President Reynaldo Bignone, who was sentenced to 25 years in jail for crimes against humanity. Argentina, April 2010
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    The trial of former Argentine President Reynaldo Bignone, who was sentenced to 25 years in jail for crimes against humanity. Argentina, April 2010
    Joao Pina/Courtesy of FotoVisura

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By documenting the survivors and families of those who were killed, I hope to help generations of South Americans know and better understand this dark period in their countries.

Joao de Carvalho Pina was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1980 and started working as a photographer at 18. He's spent most of the past decade working in Latin America. Operation Condor stories have led him across South America and to Cuba. More of his work can be found on FotoVisura.


100 Words is a series in which photographers describe their work, in their own words. Curated by Graham Letorney.

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