Every Thursday, Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo fills with women wearing white scarves and holding signs covered with names.
They are the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. They meet there to bring attention to something that happened during the 1970s: the kidnapping of their children and grandchildren by Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship.
For decades, the women have been asking for answers about what happened to their loved ones. Up to 30,000 people “disappeared” by the state during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” a period during which the country’s military dictatorship turned against its own people.
In 1976, the Argentine military overthrew the government of Isabel Perón. The political coups were supported by the United States. The military dictatorship then waged the Dirty War against the Argentinian people. The Dirty War was a period of state-sponsored torture and terrorism.
The junta dubbed left-wing activists “terrorists” and kidnapped and killed an estimated 30,000 people. “Victims died during torture, were machine-gunned at the edge of enormous pits, or were thrown, drugged, from airplanes into the sea,” explains Marguerite Feitlowitz. “Those individuals came to be known as “the missing.”
By “disappearing” them and disposing of their bodies without documenting them, the junta could pretend they never existed. But family members and friends knew about the “death flights” in which bodies were flung from airplanes into the water below. They searched for answers about the fates of their loved ones.
In 1977, a group of desperate mothers began to protest. Every week, they gathered in the Plaza de Mayo and protested against the military junta. The government turned against the protesting women with the same brand of violence they had visited on their children. Several other of the group’s founders were kidnapped and murdered. Pregnant women had their babies taken away and put up for adoption.
But the women didn’t stop. They protested throughout the 1978 World Cup, which was held in Argentina. In 1981, they gathered for their first “March of Resistance,” a 24-hour-long protest. Their activism helped turn public opinion against the junta.
The Dirty War ended after the military junta gave up power and agreed to democratic elections in 1983. Since then, nearly 900 former members of the junta have been tried and convicted of human rights abuses. The Grandmothers of the Plaza Mayo keep fighting for the truth.
Source: 30,000 People Were 'Disappeared' in Argentina's Dirty War. These Women Never Stopped Looking
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