Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

The May 30 from 1977, May Plaza change. That day, 14 women would be the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. They were standing on Rivadavia Street, in front of the Metropolitan Curia of Buenos Aires, waiting for Bishop Victorio Manuel Bonamín to receive them. They wanted to ask him where his sons.

Time passed and nobody received them. It was difficult, very difficult. Fourteen months earlier, Bonamin’s own great-nephew had been kidnapped by a vigilante patrol and the prelate, despite his fluid contacts with the military dome, he had only made a lukewarm phone call.

“Individually we are not going to achieve anything”, said Azucena Villaflor to break the silence. The others stared at her and tilted their heads.

Why don’t we all go to the Plaza de Mayo? When he sees that there are many of us, Videla will have to receive us”he added to convince them.

Deluded, they all consented. It was then that the four Gard sisters, Berta Baverman, Mirta Baravalle, Antonia Cisneros, Elida de Caimi, Haydée García Buelas, Delicia González, Pepa García, Kety Neuhaus, Raquel Arcushin and Ada de Senar crossed towards the symbolic square of the Argentines hoping that the de facto president, Jorge Rafael Videla, made a gesture with his hand behind a window, indicating that, well, that he would receive them in an extraordinary audience.

And they crossed the Plaza and stood among the pigeons, looking towards the Casa Rosada, so that the dictator who had ordered the repression and disappearance of his children would receive them. They had also made pilgrimages to police stations, courts, churches and ministries. They all pretended to know nothing.

Mothers of Plaza de Mayo: April 30, 1977

Since March 24, 1976, the military coup that had removed and imprisoned President María Estela Martínez de Perón imposed a state of siege. No groups of more than three people could be seen on the street.

Immediately, then, they were approached by a police officer who told them that it was forbidden to “stand motionless on public roads.” He asked them to “circulate”.

The first struggles of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.

Ingeniously, they took his words literally and in pairs, linked arms and began to circulate around of the Pyramid of the Plaza de Mayo.

They walked very slowly and no one took them out: they were not disturbing public order, just they walked.

Mothers and walks in Plaza de Mayo

The anecdote spread from mouth to mouth and the following Friday appeared more mothers who, like them, were looking for their disappeared children, who shared their steps and their tragic stories.

It was that simple how they learned to wipe your tears and walk. Just walk. Walk it would take them somewhere, even though walking in circles is thought to lead nowhere.

Soon they were joined by Hebe Pastor de Bonafini, a housewife from La Plata who wanted to know where her sons Jorge and Raúl were, and the former’s wife, María Elena.

Over time, the pilgrim date would change to Thursdays at 3:30 p.m., always to march around the Pyramid of Plaza de Mayo.

Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo
Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, led by Estela de Carloto; they lost pregnant daughters and daughters-in-law. They are looking for their grandchildren.

As the multiplied mothers peripatetic, on October 22, 1977 the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo emerged. They were also mothers searching for their missing children. Their daughters or daughters-in-law had been kidnapped when pregnant and never heard from again, and certainly the babies who should have been born in captivity.

The bad news spread like wildfire and it was said that the babies born in clandestine detention centers had been handed over to the families of the repressive civilians and soldiers. Situation that masterfully came to “fiction” in The official story (Luis Puenzo, 1985), who won several international awards and a Hollywood Oscar.

The “Locas de Plaza de Mayo”

In 1979, Habe de Bonafini would be elected President of the group. But there was still a long way to go for that.

In October 1977 they planned a longer and more transverse walk: a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján.

To identify themselves as a group, the Mothers covered their heads with a white handkerchief. Shortly after, his steps in a circle were escorted by signs that read: “appearance alive”.

Mothers of Plaza de Mayo
The handkerchiefs began to be used to identify them when they made a pilgrimage to Luján.

The Curia never received them. A month later, Bishop Victorio Manuel Bonamín, who liked to keep a personal diary with annotations, wrote: “If I could talk to the government, I would tell them that we must remain firm in the positions we are taking: foreign complaints about disappearances must be dismissed.”

Those were the days when the Argentine state intensified the kidnappings of citizens and foreigners; the tortures and illegal constraints; the disappearance of people; the appropriation of children born in prisons and detention camps; identity theft.

The process of national reorganization was underway. The Mothers began to have a voice and, when they were able to speak, they questioned the measures taken by the Government. “LCrazy Aces of Plaza de Mayo”, they were also persecuted, discredited, and even murdered, as had happened with Azucena Villaflor, Esther Ballestrino, María Ponce de Bianco.

In 1979, the social temperature, the bad press and the repression he scared them away from the Plaza, like the pigeons. However, that space would remain as the scene of memory in the country of compulsory amnesia. Although they were no longer there, the Plaza silently remembered the right to identity.

Mothers and international recognition

Without walks, the Mothers took the opportunity to travel and tell your story to the world. Amnesty International paid for them to travel to nine countries so that what was happening in this country could be known firsthand.

Oscar award ceremony for
The official story (Luis Puenzo) deserved the first Oscar for Argentina; he showed the disappearance of children born in captivity.

In September 1979, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS (Organization of American States) was in Argentina. The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo formally presented their complaints about the disappearance of their children.

From that formality, the crimes against humanity that the military government committed, but denied, were public throughout the world. To the national shame was added the international one. In our country, the state committed “Crimes against humanity”.

The struggle of the Mothers thus began to have forceful rinternational backing.

It was only in 1980 that the Mothers of Plaza de Mayor resumed their public walks. yesu historical request, “appearance alive”was completed with “Trial and punishment for the guilty”, and their slogans. On the floor of the Great Argentine Plaza, outlines of unidentified people were drawn.

And they walked again. In December 1980, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo walked around the Pyramid for 24 hours. It was the first one March of the Resistance, which would be replicated every year. Only then did they have a headquarters –before they met in their homes-, donated by the Dutch Women’s Association.

mothers in democracy

Democracy arrived in 1983, with President Raúl Alfonsín, but the mothers They continued with their acts and walks. They kept asking, then more than ever, for the “Trial and punishment for the guilty”. And that day came, although to achieve it, on June 24, 1984 they made a camp at the Government House, so that Raúl Alfonsín would receive them.

CONADEP 20211213
The writer Ernesto Sábato delivered the CONADEP report to President Raúl Alfonsín.

The CONADEP (National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons) was formed and complaints were received from 8,961 people, which were summarized in the historic volume Nunca más. The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, led by Hebe de Bonafini, said that the disappeared were 30,000, a round and symbolic figure. Only with 10 was his fight justified.

In 1986, the group ceased to be a compact group and different points of view and criteria of struggle divided it into two groups, which survive to this day: Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora (led by Nora Cortinas) and Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Association (represented by Hebe de Bonafini).

In 1987, the commanders of the de facto government were already imprisoned, but the disputed measures had been approved. Laws of Due Obedience and Full Stopwho wanted to put a cut in the chain of responsibilities and legal litigation: the cut-off point was the rank of colonel.

Mothers and sons

In 1995, following “the school” of the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, the HIJOS (Children for Identity and Justice against Oblivion and Silence) emerged. The youth group brought together children of disappearedof exiles, of political prisoners and kidnapped people and murdered during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983.

With young blood, the claim for the identity of Argentines born in captivity became more international than ever, with subsidiaries in Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay, Norway, France and Switzerland. Respectful of their biological ancestors, HIJOS wants to keep alive the memory of normal life that the military dictatorship and state crimes denied them.

In the 2002 Resistance March, the Mothers they gave their white handkerchiefs to the CHILDRENso that the fight for memory continues and so that identity continues to be a right for every Argentine.

You may also like

Leave a Reply