God couldn’t be everywhere…

God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers – or so the Jewish proverb goes.

Mothers like, Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo – The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo – the Mothers of the Disappeared – a famous, emblematic group of women in white headscarves.

Butterfly Effects For Change – Part 9:

God’s Assistants

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


  1. A feeling that fits, Jan – I can’t tell you how much I admire such courage and determination in the face of such horror and despair. Many of them never got their sons and daughters back or even found out what happened – I like to think that if the Disappeared knew that their mothers wouldn’t give up, at least there might have been some solace in that.

  2. Hi, i just copied and translate to Spanish the quotation of Aung San Suu Kyi to share with friends in Chile who are under lots of pressure on second day of generalised protest…very sad so…i wrote here to empower your ‘butterfly effect appeal’ . There is a student movement looking for educational changes, mainly trying to get to the attention of the authorities that private education is not working as a whole on the country and that debt for third level education is getting too obscene and reaching a very big gap between social classes. They believe equality can be amended and a new system implemented. Through change of paradigm. The movement is impressive in quantity and cohesion, people felt very unhappy.The movement grew bigger as now a large union coalition called for strike for yesterday and today seeking structural changes to society, health, pensions, decision making…this is not going that well as some people is very unhappy and others very afraid…and there goes about the relevance of that quotation in this case… I am adding this link that presents interesting figures xxx http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44249115/ns/world_news-americas/t/chile-faces–day-shutdown-over-utopian-demands/

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