by, Hillary Houston
The sun is shining as the icy breeze cuts to the heart, reminding the protesters of Plaza de Mayo of a much colder time in Buenos Aires.
Protestors march, wrapped in blankets clutching each other as they bear the burden of a haunting history. The voices of opposition come from the disturbing stories of mothers and grandmothers who long to see their missing family members.
Argentine mothers whose children “disappeared” during the military dictatorship called the Dirty War, from 1976-1983, cry for answers and object to being forgotten.
The Dirty War was a seven-year military campaign carried out by the Argentine government. The military government maintained its power for so long by wiping out anybody who challenged their authority.
Both opponents of the government as wells as innocent people “disappeared” or were kidnapped in the middle of the night. These people were taken to secret government “detention centers” where they were tortured and killed. These people are known as the “los desaparecidos” or “the disappeared’.
“I regret not getting more involved with the disappeared,” Uki Goñi, an Argentine journalist reporting the mothers’ testimonie, said. “But if I had, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
Family, friends and community members gather every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. to protest the disappearance of their loved ones.
The Madres de Plaza de Mayo is an organization of Argentine women who fight for human rights in order to achieve a common goal. Their name comes from the Plaza de Mayo at which grandmothers and mothers of the lost first gathered in 1976. For over three decades, the Mothers have struggled together in search of closure and truth.
Generations of mothers have supported each other in their pursuit to find their missing sons and daughters. The mothers argue that under the military dictator, Juan Domingo Perón, as many as 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and killed. Three of the founding mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have also disappeared.
Without consequences or explanations, the protestors insist on bringing their cases to justice.
“Considering the past and our struggles with the government, the Argentine people have slowly adapted the habitation of evil,” Goῆi said. “Years ago, speaking out against the government meant life or death, so most people chose to not say anything.”
Currently the Argentine government has admitted to 11,000 disappeared cases. Still, no apologies or memorial efforts have been made.
Today, masses of white head scarves, or paῆuelos, banners, and pictures of the missing bring attention to this true human tragedy. In front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace, hundreds of lost names are blessed by gatherers as they walk and chant.
The exact number of those missing is impossible to determine due to the secrecy surrounding the abductions but the Mothers’ association seeks to keep the memory of their disappeared children alive through their courage, persistence and independence.