Argentina has a rich history of its people power against injustice. From ‘Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo’ to its latest movement ‘Ni Una Menos’. It is said that every week in Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires, there are approximately 20-25 protests/demonstrations. I have only been in Buenos Aires less than two weeks and I can say I completely believe that statistic. I witnessed more than three protests just on my way to work last week! I have also learned that everything is controversial in Buenos Aires, from its free public education to where to buy the best mate cups.
Maybe porteños simply love to debate but in my opinion, they are very critical thinkers who question authority in an effort to keep government accountable for its actions. It is obvious to me that the people of Buenos Aires are incredibly politically conscious because its streets are covered in political murals, graffiti, and political signs. I believe that this political consciousness is rooted in the many dictatorships this country has suffered.
The history of this country proves that the government lacks the willingness to hold itself accountable and that justice prevails at the hands of people power. To really understand the strong foundation of resistance and people power in Argentina you have to talk about ‘Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo’. Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo was a group of mothers whose children had been disappeared by the dictatorship of 1974 to 1983. This dictatorship is now commonly referred to as ‘The Dirty War’ but here in Argentina, everyone refers to it as a time of state terrorism against Argentina.
During the dictatorship, any and all forms of resistance against the government resulted in your disappearance. It is understood then, why there was little public resistance (underground resistance, however, was still happening!). The Argentine Anti-communist Alliance, also referred to as ‘Triple A’, hunted down and murdered left-wing Marxists and Peronist guerrillas, political dissidents, socialists, students, activists, trade unionists, and journalists. ‘Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo’ were the first group of organizers to publically display a strong resistance towards the government.
‘Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo’ called for three things memory, dignity, and justice. Their call for the living memory and dignity of those 30,000 who were disappeared. Their call for justice was so that those responsible were held accountable for their crimes against humanity. The women would gather in la Plaza de Mayo holding picket signs with the photos of their missing children. Back in that time a gathering of three or more people standing still in public was considered a protest. As a loophole, the women split up into groups of three and walked in a circle around la Plaza de Mayo.
The women, although not originally acknowledged as a threat to the dictatorship, were persecuted, harassed, stalked, and sometimes even killed in an effort from the government to find the foundation of their resistance. To the government, it was impossible to believe that the resistance displayed by Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, which was quickly gaining recognition and support, did not have a foundation of male activists. Male organizers were seen as a bigger threat than female organizers because they were believed to be more aggressive, but Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo proved that even middle aged stay at home mothers are a force to be reckoned with, especially when it came to their children!
Following the birth of Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo came the birth of ‘Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo’ a group of elderly women who came together to create a human rights organization that focused on finding the children stolen and illegally adopted during the Argentine Dirty War. To understand the importance of this organization you need to know that during the Dirty War pregnant women were at times disappeared. The women were kept alive until they gave birth. Afterward, they were disappeared but the question always remained what happened to the children they gave birth to? As time went on and more information was disclosed it was found that the children were illegally sold off or sometimes even adopted by their mother’s murders. Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo aims to help find these children (now grown adults) and reunite them with their long lost families. The organization hopes to be able to give back a piece of the child’s identity by understanding the history of their family. Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo continue to do their powerful work to this day since they have only found 10% of the estimated 500 missing children.
The stories of Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo and Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo prove to me that resistance burns within every Argentinan. Maybe today they aren’t living under a dictatorship but the people are still healing from it. I think that the people will not forget the oppression they faced just a few years ago and hopefully, that will keep their government responsible to its people.
by Kimberly Jessica Ramirez Gonzalez