God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers – or so the Jewish proverb goes.
Butterfly Effects For Change – Part 9:
They came in their hundreds, marching around the main square of Buenos Aires, demanding that the military government of the time – 1976-83 – tell them the fate of their children – Argentina’s estimate 30,000 Desparecidos.
In desperation, these women had searched for information – knocking on doors, going from government office to government office, begging and pleading with the authorities to tell them where their sons and daughters had been taken. To no avail.
These sad, desperate visits were fruitless insofar as the authorities never helped the women to find their missing sons and daughters. However, they did bear a very different – and powerful – fruit. As the women trailed wearily in search of their children, they may have met with silence and opposition from the government but they also met each other.
On April 30th, 1977, fourteen mothers went to the Plaza de Mayo, across from Government House to publicize their predicament. This demonstration took great courage as many of their children had disappeared for lesser ‘crimes’. These women went to the Plaza to publicize the issue of the thousands of missing Argentinians. Everybody else – including the media – was afraid to speak up.
And I’m sure these women were afraid – but they spoke up anyway.
They collected in the Plaza around the Pirámide de Mayo – the oldest national monument in Buenos Aires and a symbol of liberty. However, as the military government had forbidden groups of more than three people to stand in one place, the mothers were told they couldn’t stand there, which is why they began their silent – and evocative – processions around the Plaza.
Soon these 14 mothers were joined by others, until every Thursday between 3.30 and 4.00pm, hundreds of people – men as well as women – walked silently around this square in Buenos Aires protesting the disappearance of their children. To identify themselves, the mothers wore white headscarves emblazoned with the names of their missing children and carried placards with their photographs.
This moving and non-violent protest captured imaginations across Argentina – and even outside – as similar ‘mothers’ groups took to the streets, inspired by the actions of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.
Eventually the military regime was replaced, but in Argentina – and indeed throughout the world – the memory of heartbroken mothers with placards bearing the photographs of their disappeared children, endures.
It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. (Aung San Suu Kyi, 1990)
Image by willposh via Flickr
- No DNA match for Argentine publisher’s children (seattlepi.com)