Argentina's experiment with Socialism came to an end when Isabel Peron was dispatched by a coup d'etat. The new government that took over was authoritarian and led by the a former General. Some of the citizens were unhappy with this arrangement and started to protest. What ensued came to be known as the Dirty War. It involved the torture, killing and disappearance of, at the very least, 30,000 people. The people who disappeared came to be known as Los Desaparecidos. The mothers of these activists and non-activists, the goverment wasn't choosy, started to speak out against the actions taken by the government. They became known as Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo.

The mothers received this name because of the fact that they organized in a plaza when they met. They had tried to go to the church for help, but they were no help. Disappearances began with people in the government and political parties and other "officials" (church, etc.) in between 1974 and 1975. At this time, other groups came together to deal with the disappearances as well, some of these also consisted of mothers of some of these people, but these groups were highly bureaucratic and the mothers that came to be in Las Madres, felt that they were always treated separately. Starting in 1976, when the disappearances increased to include average folks they met in a plaza and there they felt like they were equal. They got to know each other and exchange stories and decided that they would meet on Thursdays to share support with each other.

When the mothers first started to meet in the plaza there were just a few and because of their low social position la policia harassed them and tried to get them to leave. Using their fists and clubs they thought that they could scare off the women. Las Madres refused to be intimidated. When the police asked for the women's papers they received the paper for every women present. They stood united to find strength in each other and indicate to the government that they weren't going anywhere. Other people at first thought they were or were associated with terrorists.

At their meetings, the protests started out as them just walking around the plaza and then they realized that they needed to draw more attention to themselves. The Mothers started reaching out and visiting the Ministry of the Interior, the police station and residences of other mothers. During these visits, they would recruit more mothers and their group grew. They still weren't getting a lot of publicity. That changed.

There was a visit by Terence Todman and Cyrus Vance, the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina and Secretary of State, respectively, in the late 80's, that gave them a break. While the journalists were covering their visit, the Mothers were nearly slaughtered by the police, refusing to disperse, so that they could get the attention of the visiting dignitaries. This gained a lot of attention for their cause.

At a march that they helped to organize, the Mothers wanted to stand out among all the other marchers. This led to them adopting the white shawl as their symbol. The shawl represented their children's "nappies."* (Diapers, I guess.)

Twenty-five years of struggle will be marked on April 30th. The mothers' demands include:

Arrest of those responsible
Freedom for political prisoner
No exhumations of the remains of the disappeared
No monetary or economic reparations
No "posthumous tributes"
Jobs for everyone

I seem to remember that they had a motto, No Mas, Spanish for no more, but I couldn't find anything that mentioned they had such a motto.

*Most of my expansive knowledge of this topic was used up in the first paragraph. I used info from
http://www.madres.org/ingles/historia/textos/historia.htm
http://www.madres.org/ingles/index.htm
for this w-u.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Argentina, (what a place!), and of course went to Buenos Aires. While there, I tried to witness one of the Mothers' protests, but was not able to as apparently the Plaza de Mayo has become a focus point for the protests of all the other aggrieved groups in Argentina. This is probably owed to the fact the Plaza is in front of the Casa Rosada, the office of Argentina's President. I did visit their "library", a cafe/cultural center, very interesting.

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