This interview brings to light the transnational and gender politics of the Chicana/o movement during the 1970s, as well as the effects of state terrorism and torture on the political trajectory of the Chicana activist and organizer Olga Talamante.
On November 10, 1974, uniformed men arrested Talamante, a Chicana activist from Gilroy, California, and thirteen young Argentine activists in Azul, Argentina. The young leftist activists had been working on health and educational projects when martial law was declared. Accused of violating the National Security Act, Talamante was subjected to four days of terror—including electric shocks, beatings, and psychological torture—and incarcerated in the earliest days of Argentina's “dirty war” of state terrorism. Born in Mexicali, Mexico, and raised in Gilroy, Talamante had attended the University of California at Santa Cruz and was involved with the student group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán (Chicana/o Student Movement of Aztlán—MEChA), the United Farm Workers (UFW), and the women's group Chicana Consciousness. Talamante's border crossings—between Mexico and the United States and across the Americas, from agricultural fields to the university, from student politics to revolutionary movements—as well as her analysis of the effects of capitalism across the continent led her to identify Chicana/o with Mexico, Latin America, and a global imaginary. Talamante's experiences of torture and incarceration in Argentina can also be linked to the current torture scandals at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and other secret CIA so-called black-site prisons.