The importance of family has always been a strong pillar in Argentina. Weekly family gatherings are the cultural norm and Mother’s and Father’s Days are celebrated with pride. This family strength has permeated all aspects of society, even those that have dampened Argentina’s tragic history. A look into the world-renowned Asosiación Madres de Plaza de Mayo or Mothers of Plaza de Mayo shows the incomprehensible strength of a mother’s love.
The tragic years known as the Dirty War (1976-1983) were a time of cruel government dictatorship in Argentina. Tens of thousands of Argentines “disappeared” with no trace to be found. Families were left wondering where their children, siblings, and grandchildren had been taken. Mostly educated people and students were taken from their homes or plucked off the streets, since the government deemed them a threat. Therefore a lot of mothers were left without their adolescent children. Many times, unfortunately, their loved ones had disappeared never to be seen again. Another thing important to note is that if these people had young children, or were expecting, the babies were taken from them and then sold to rich families. A ray of light appeared in this dark time in the form of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. After some time these same women would be referred to as the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo as they were not only looking for their children, but also their grandchildren.
This group of 14 mothers whose children had disappeared gathered in the famous Plaza de Mayo square in Buenos Aires on April 30, 1977. The plaza is located in downtown Buenos Aires in front of the President’s office, the Casa Rosada, and for decades has been the site for government resistance. These brave mothers gathered on Thursday afternoons week by week, year after year, protesting the government’s cruelties and demanding the release and locations of their children. The mothers and grandmothers would walk around the plaza’s main statue, May Pyramid, in slow circles, with their now famous white headscarves wrapped around their head. Many of these female protestors own lives were threatened, as any form of government protest was forbidden by the dictatorship. Their goal was also to draw attention of these atrocities to the people of Argentina, as media coverage was highly restricted throughout the country and many citizens had no idea how many lives were being taken.
Since this terrible time in Argentine history, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have continued to fight for their children’s lives. Another social justice group, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, or Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, formed by searching for missing children who were taken from their mothers and adopted by other families. To this day, the organization has identified 115 previously missing children who were unknowing victims of forced adoption, the latest one the 22nd of August 2014.
These organizations, along with the brave women who lead them, have gained fame worldwide for their unrelenting fight for their children. Visitors to Buenos Aires can still catch the mothers walking around the plaza on Thursdays, where their distinctive white headscarves have been painted on the plaza tiles. Out of this unimaginable era in Argentina, the human strength still shines through, reminding us all to keep fighting for those we love.
To learn more first hand of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, visit Buenos Aires with tours from Say Hueque.