The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo
Primero mataremos a todos los subversivos, luego mataremos a sus colaboradores, despu廥… a sus simpatizantes, enseguida… a aquellos que permanecen indiferentes y finalmente mataremos a los t璥idos.
–General Ib廨ico Saint-Jean, gobernador de Buenos Aires, mayo de 1976
First we will kill all the subversives; then we will kill their collaborators; thenheir sympathizers. Thenhose who remain indifferent; and finally we will kill the timid.
-General Iberico Saint-Jean, governor ofBuenos Aires, May 1976
In 1976, the ousting of Juan Peron’s widow, Isabel Mart璯ez de Per鏮, gave way to the military dictatorship under Jorge Rafael Videla. From this time until 1983, the “Dirty War” of Argentina claimed the lives of around 30,000 people. Death squads worked the streets grabbing people the in middle of their daily lives, dragging them to dark underground torture centres where victims were brutally tortured and usually killed in an attempt to extract any information relating to left-wing involvement or connections. Men, women, pregnant women and children were all subjected to this treatment on the basis of suspicion. This “Dirty War” could also have become known as the silent war as the country, like Chile under Pinochet and Uruguay under Bordaberry, people were systematically “disappeared” from the streets and never heard from again. Although the US government had knowledge of this widespread genocide in the region, it supported the standing dictatorships in effort to supress left-wing movements which were scene as communist threats to democracy and regional stability. However, the vast majority of the world had little or no knowledge of the gruesome events happening and people within Argentina were silenced in this “National Re-organisation Process”.
The mothers of disappeared citizens began to mobilise in an effort to find their children. Despite the widespread terror across the country of acting against the dictatorship, the mothers marched together to the Plaza de Mayo (the centre of Buenos Aires where the heart of the government and most institutions of Argentina are found) and demanded to know the whereabouts of their missing children. They publically challenged the government when no others would begging any sort of international press to inform the world about what was happening in Argentina.
Here is a video of an even in the seventies when the mothers confronted the international press in the plaza. I have translated if underneath.
They don’t tell us if they are alive or dead. Why don’t they tell us? We’re just looking for that. Why don’t they answer? Just that and we’ll go away.
…because of what the government is saying, it’s not what it’s saying, lies, it’s lying, it’s lying. It has been like this for two years…
My daugther was five months pregnant when they took her. My grandson should have been born in August of last year. I still haven’t been able to find out anything about him.
We only want to know where are our children, alive or dead. What anguish because we don’t even know if they are sick, if they are cold, if they are hungry. We don’t know anything and you can see our desperation, sir, because we don’t know who to turn to… Consulate, consulates, embassies, ministries, churches, all of them have closed us out, everywhere has closed the doors on us. Because of this we beg you, we BEG you, you are our last hope, please help us, help us please, you are our last hope…
The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo continue marching in the plaza every Thursday at 3:30, even almost 25 years after the end of the dictatorship. It’s moving to spend a Thursday afternoon at the plaza watching the mothers, now quite old but just as strong, walking around with photos of their children around their chests. I would love to share some images and videos of the movement today but somehow they also mysteriously “disappeared”…