CARCAMO, CELES ERNESTO (1903-1990)

An Argentinean physician, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, Celes Ernesto Carcamo was the founder and an honorary member of the Asociacion Psicoanali-tica Argentina (APA) [Psychoanalytic Association of Argentina]. Born August 11, 1903, in La Plata, he died April 7, 1990, in Buenos Aires.

Carcamo’s father, who was Spanish, with a PhD in chemistry and pharmacy, came from a long line of doctors. He was well versed in both science and the humanities and devoted much of his time to literature and journalism. His mother, an Argentinean, was the daughter of large landholders originally from the Basque country of France. Carcamo had a quiet childhood and discovered Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams at an early age. He studied medicine as a young man but took courses in philosophy at the state university. He specialized in neuropsychiatry and joined Dr. Mariano R. Castex at the Clinicas Hospital, where the latest methods in medicine were practiced. Here, after studying with James Mapelli, a hypnotist and psychotherapist, he soon realized the limitations of hypnosis. Moved by a profound desire to provide therapeutic services, he studied everything available on psychopathology and psychoanalysis, with a focus on their clinical application.

Since Argentina had few practicing clinicians at this time—most psychoanalysts being self-taught or theorists—he decided to leave for France. At the recommendation of Marie Bonaparte, he studied at the Institut Psychanalytique de Paris (Paris Psychoanalytic Institute). He completed his training analysis with Paul Schiff and was supervised by Rudolph Loewenstein and Charles Odier. In February 1939 he was appointed a member of the Societe Psychanalytique de Paris. He associated with scientists and writers such as Ernesto Sabato. In Paris his friend Juan Rof Carballo introduced him to Angel Garma, who wanted to settle in Argentina, and to whom he offered support and advice.

Both men arrived in Buenos Aires in 1939 with the intention of settling there. They began to provide training analyses to help establish an affiliate of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA), a project that came to fruition in December 1942. Upon his return to Argentina, Carcamo had assumed the direction of the department of psychiatry and psychotherapy at the Medical and Surgical Institute of the Durand Hospital Medical School. Here he analyzed some of the pioneers of Brazilian psychoanalysis: Danilo Perestrello and his wife Marialzira, and Alcyon Baer Bahia of Rio de Janeiro, Zaira Bittencourt de Martins from Porto Alegre, and other Latin American analysts. During his tenure as director, the review Revista de psicoanalisis was inaugurated, its first issue appearing in 1943.

Carcamo was the first to teach psychoanalytic technique at the Training Institute. In 1958 he taught the first course in medical psychology at the School of Medicine of the University of Buenos Aires. His writings were collected and published in 1992. Carcamo was interested in the plumed serpent of the Maya and Aztec religions, the image of the world in aboriginal America, male impotence, female sterility, and the psychoanalytic process. With his wife he translated Anna Freud’s The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense and Eugene Minkowski’s Traite de psychopathologie.

His personal prestige was of considerable benefit to the APA, especially during difficult moments in Argentina’s political life. The impact of Carcamo’s personality, his integrity and lack of prejudice, together with his considerable erudition and wit, had a lasting influence on several generations of clinicians whom he analyzed or monitored.

Roberto Doria-Medina Jr.

See also: Argentina.

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Literature: ENCYCLOPEDIA