Nicols Ruarte director and playwright by Arismendi and Cintia Trobbiani Photo Pepe Mateos

Nicolás Ruarte: playwright, theater director, grandson of genocide victims and part of Historias Disobedientes

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Born in the early days of Menemism, at the age of 14 Nicolás Ruarte learned that his family had participated in the repression of the last military dictatorship in Argentina and, far from choosing silence, distanced himself from his relatives, joined the collective Disobedient Stories and today he recounts his experiences through performance art, with a work with a very symbolic name: Arismendi, the alias of his grandfather, Luis Jorge Arias Duval.

“I am the grandson of the repressive military of the dictatorship”, is the first sentence that Nicolás Ruarte says when he appears in the interview with the Télam agency.

Ruarte was 16 years old when he first heard the term “disappeared” and it was from a girlfriend whose relatives had been kidnapped during the dictatorship.

Nicolás Ruarte (director and playwright of Arismendi) and Cintia Trobbiani. Photo: Pepe Mateos.

“They were the first to tell me the truth about what had happened during the dictatorship,” he says while reviewing the process in which he became aware of those events that marked the history of Argentines long before he was born.

He adds that, “until then, he only knew what he had been told at school: from 1976 to 1983 a group of soldiers ruled and people could not vote.”

“I was born in 1990, when everything was over and there was no more talk about the subject. I had everything for breakfast when my grandfather was imprisoned. Before I did not know what the dictatorship was”Nicolas Ruarte

It was the family of that teenage girlfriend who for the first time he took him on a march for Memory, Truth and Justice: It was March 24, 2002, the year that day was established to commemorate the victims of State terrorism.

“I was terrified, I was very afraid that they would escrachame. Clearly no one was going to do anything to me because they did not know my name, but I still wore a cap to cover me. I wanted to know, curiosity was greater than fear,” confesses Ruarte who, for Those days I was in the first years of secondary school.

The actor stars in the play Arismendi whose title is the alias of his grandfather Luis Jorge Arias Duval
The actor stars in the play “Arismendi”, whose title is the alias of his grandfather, Luis Jorge Arias Duval.

Nicolás had already begun his process of raising awareness of that tragic period in Argentine history when, in 2004, his grandfather Luis Jorge Arias Duval was arrested.

“I was born in 1990, when everything had already happened and there was no more talk about the subject. I had everything for breakfast when my grandfather was imprisoned. Before I did not know what the dictatorship was,” he says while reviewing his story in dialogue with Télam.

In 2003, the Senate signed into law the repeal of the Due Obedience and Full Stop laws, known as the “forgiveness” laws, which prevented those responsible for crimes against humanity from being tried and, that same year, the first arrests of repressors from the Navy Mechanics School were ordered.

His grandfather, Arias Duval, remained in house arrest from 2004 until his death in 2011, and that arrest was the kicker for Nicolás to begin to worry about how his family had been involved in the civic-military dictatorship that ruled the country since 1976 to 1983.

“It was a work of many years of discovering the truth and unraveling what they told me at home, until I realized that in many things they lied or even, sometimes, not even they knew the truth,” he explains.

Ruarte is a member of the Disobedient Stories collective
Ruarte is a member of the collective “Historias Disobedientes”.

This is how he discovered that his two grandparents, on his mother’s and paternal side, were involved in the dictatorship.

One of them was Arias Duval, who received a final sentence of 25 years and remained under house arrest until his death, in 2011; the other Orlando Miguel Arcángel Ruarte was exonerated for being too old to face the trial.

“It was a work of many years of discovering the truth and unraveling what they told me at home, until I realized that in many things they lied or even, sometimes, not even they knew the truth”Nicolas Ruarte

But then the burden became heavier when he learned that his grandparents weren’t the only ones involved in the dictatorship.

“My grandparents were not the only ones involved in the dictatorship. Of my mother’s two uncles, one was part of the ESMA midwives and the other was Alberto Arias Duval, who was part of what today is the cause of the Camps Circuit and Intelligence Battalion 601. The whole family is plagued by genocides, “assumes Ruarte.

Nicholas he was “moving away” from his family “little by little”, as part of a process that lasted “many years” and in which he opted “for silence”, “with all the emotional weight that this carries,” he reflects.

The arrival of macrismo to power, the reduction of the penalty for genocidal victims through 2×1 and the resurgence of right-wing ideas in the public debate, generated an unstoppable desire to tell the story that was faced at the same time with “the fear of rejection “that generated in him that his family history came to light.

“They released my paternal grandfather (Ruarte) in the first year of macrismo and my family wanted to make a barbecue to celebrate it. It was horrible because the fact that they are released and backtracked with the causes, after all he ended up being right “, he remembers from those years.

The opportunity to give volume to his need to tell his story came in 2016, when he was working as a set designer in a play by the cast of La Jauría, in which each performer made an autobiographical monologue about violence in society.

Mobilized by the testimonies he heard, behind the scenes, Ruarte told his family story to the director of the play, Nuria Vadell, who without hesitation asked him to write a text to incorporate into the play.

Thus, on a stage and with the lights hitting his face, Nicolás told the world for the first time that he was the grandson of repressors.

“After I made the story public, many people from my past came to speak to me and tell me that they knew but had not dared to tell me,” he reviews.

Nicols is an actor and musician
Nicolás is an actor and musician.

After her acting debut, Ruarte began an investigation into other cases of relatives of genocide victims, and thus gave birth to her own play that is currently presented on Friday nights as “Arismendi” at the Empire Theater, on Avenida Hipólito. Yrigoyen 1934, from this capital.

Ruarte had to make a long journey to get to the place where he is today, with 31 years and a son. On his way, he also came across Disobedient Stories, a group of sons, daughters and relatives of genocidal victims whom he approached.

“After I made the story public, many people from my past came to speak to me and tell me that they knew but had not dared to tell me” (FW)Nicolas Ruarte

“I contacted them with the idea of ​​knowing their history and they offered me to take part. I had been in other fields of political militancy but I had never found a place where I felt comfortable because being from a military family I always felt like a toad from another well. Since I entered Disobedient Stories, I found a place of militancy that was meaningful to me and contributed something, “says Ruarte.

The staging of the play was staged with her partner Cintia Trobianni, with whom they sought to show scenes from the daily life of a military family, some lived by its author, others related by fellow militants.

The name of the play, Arismendi, was the alias of his grandfather Arias Duval who, on stage, is a patriarch who imposes rules inside and outside the house.

The actor and the director of the play Arismendi Photo Pepe Mateos
The actor and the director of the play “Arismendi”. Photo: Pepe Mateos.

“It is important to understand that the genociders were not monsters outside of society who came to do this to us but were partly created by society and had families,” says Trobianni, in charge of the choreography of Arismendi.

“What does a gynecologist do at Esma? Aren’t they all men?” Are some questions heard during a scene at a family lunch.

In addition to the family patriarch, there is a character who wears a disposable mask and gloves: he is the gynecologist, Nicolás’s great-uncle, who acted under the nickname “Tomy” and died before being sentenced.

“In my grandfather’s house there was a lot of talk about the subject. I didn’t speak but rather listened,” says Ruarte and assures that his grandfather “was never sorry for anything, he always defended what they did.”

“Once, out of ignorance, I asked him what his arguments were, if there were not 30 thousand disappeared. He said no and brought some lists that he had saved, he was a guy with a lot of information,” continues his story.

In this sense, he adds: “The soldiers love to discuss the number as if it were a statistical issue and did not have the harshness that they were crimes.”

The family history of the Ruarte and the Arias Duval is already public, and there were causes and convictions, but that is not the reality of all the relatives of genocidal victims.

The role of the Collective

Many militants of Stories Disobedients remain anonymous because their parents are not subject to legal complaints for crimes against humanity, “despite the fact that they have confessed their crimes to their own daughters,” says Nicolás Ruarte.

In this sense, he explains that, from the collective, they are fighting for “the possibility of declaring against” their relatives, a possibility that “Argentine law does not allow, unless they are a direct victim of the crime.”

“We have a bill presented so that in causes against humanity you can declare against your relatives,” he expresses hopefully.

“We do this to encourage other relatives of the genocide to tell their story, because the process of memory construction is collective and with a single memory you have, through the union of different stories, you can reach something greater” , concludes Ruarte.

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