Editor's Query

Editor's Query
(Ralph A. Blessing)
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

I was on vacation in Argentina, and my camera was a constant companion. Having never seen a church with "onion" steeples, I was not content taking just two photos of the Russian Orthodox church in Buenos Aires, especially since I hadn't been able to find a camera angle that didn't show those ubiquitous overhead wires. But if I stood on a ledge that ran along the wall leading up toward the church, maybe I could get an unobstructed view of the steeples for one more shot.

I climbed onto the ledge and snapped my photo, then stepped down ... only to find myself surrounded by military police with guns drawn and snarling German shepherds. The year was 1977, the height of Argentina's "dirty war," when thousands of people were accused of anti-government activities and routinely "disappeared." I didn't think that maneuvering for a better camera angle was a state crime, but after being escorted to a military office around the corner, I learned that the wall I had leaned against encircled military property. My armed escorts had descended on me as soon as I set foot on the ledge.

I was able to convince my captors that I was just a bumbling tourist. After offering me a cup of maté, the popular Argentine beverage, the officers released me, even letting me keep my film with those shots of the Russian church. The photos are filed away, but the memory is picture-perfect.

Ralph A. Blessing, Washington

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