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A-Z Guidebook: Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Welcome to the A-Z Guidebook Link Up. If you would like to join, read the A-Z Guidebook tab at the top of the blog and write a travel post relating to the letter of the month.

* I love the innovation and variety offered by A-Z contributors. I hope you can spare some time to visit some of their blogs and have a read of what they have shared from their own archives. This month:

M or Mountain

As many people have written, Buenos Aires is a truly European city with outstanding architecture, galleries, restaurants and public spaces. After schlepping around the remote and arid back blocks of Peru and Bolivia for a number of weeks, arriving in Buenos Aires in Argentina was a small culture shock. A welcome culture shock I might add and I was most happy to embrace modern plumbing and real coffee.

Like many great cities of the world, there is also a darker side to Argentinian life and this is starkly reflected in the signs and stalls of Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo.

The Madres de Plaza de Mayo women marching behind a protest banner in Plaza De Mayo, Buenos Aires Argentina

A quick search of the internet will tell you all you need to know about the Dirty War (1976-83) when the Argentinean Military Government systematically sought to root out left wing activists, student, unionists, journalists and anyone else who had views or spoke against the government. Nearly 40 years after a group of mothers came together to protest the disappearance of their children by the military government, they still come together every Thursday outside the Casa Rosado. Officially 13 000 people disappeared though this number is believed to be much higher. Whilst this is a shocking civil and human rights violation, what I found more astounding is the fact that some of the original mothers who came to protest the disappearance of their children were in turn ‘disappeared’.

With a week in Buenos Aires, we made sure to be in Plaza de Mayo at lunchtime on a Thursday. We visited the stalls where you can buy small stickers and badges as a show of support for the mothers and grandmothers and milled about with other tourists, waiting to see what was going happen. Just after the appointed time, the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in their white headscarves gathered around their banner and march with slow determination around the Plaza to the applause of supporters and those who had come to watch. It was hard not to be moved by these women who had their children and families snatched away from them but have never given up on their memories and seeking justice.

In January 2006, the members of  Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo did their final March of Resistance, saying ‘the enemy isn’t the Government…anymore’. Instead they choose to march in pursuit of other social and human rights issues but to still commemorate the memory of the disappeared.

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10 comments… add one
  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime June 16, 2016, 3:26 pm

    This was an interesting read. Seems the issue of the disappeared is common to many countries.

    • Fiona Ryan June 17, 2016, 6:30 pm

      Yes. A sad part of the history of a number of countries.

  • retrostuart June 17, 2016, 11:44 am

    A chilling description of a darker side of history, that is unfortunately more widespread than we would hope. Another example of how travel broadens our understanding.

    • Fiona Ryan June 17, 2016, 6:31 pm

      Your own story about Chile shows just how cheap life is. We are very lucky in Australia and travelling only brings this home to me.

  • Jan Rhoades June 17, 2016, 1:57 pm

    My ‘M’s are many. Probably the most recent being Madrid. My truly happy ‘M’emories are of Bukittinggi (Literally, high hill) in the Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia. It is situated about 90km from the capital Padang and when I visited in the 70s the area was one of great beauty and totally unspoiled. There are two volcanos one of which is still active – another ‘M” – Mount Merapi. The city is the birthplace of some of the founders of the Republic of Indonesia, such as Mohammad Hatta and Assaat. Most interesting too is the history of Minangkabau people and their culture. A matrilineal society (the largest in the world) in terms of land and property passing from mother to daughter. But in matters of religion, the men are ‘in charge’ which may account for the fact that since 2008 the Minangkabau people no longer celebrate New Year as this may lead to kissing and hugging and other unseemly behaviour. Thanks for the ‘M’emories.

    • Fiona Ryan June 17, 2016, 6:34 pm

      It’s been a while since you’ve shared a letter with us. Thanks for the story – very interesting about the matrilineal society. Plenty could take a leaf out of that book.

  • sherry from sherrys pickings June 18, 2016, 9:07 am

    i have read a fair bit about the disappeared and it is very chilling. to think your own government could be so evil. we are soooo lucky here. perhaps aussies are a bit apathetic but i think that is a good thing if it means we just can’t be bothered to have riots and commit mayhem. we are too busy having barbies on the beach:=)

    • Fiona Ryan June 26, 2016, 5:48 pm

      Yes Sherry, we are just so lucky. Comparatively speaking, Australia is a safe place and we can say just abut anything we want about the government with no reprisals.

  • Emily (Cooking for Kishore) June 22, 2016, 10:45 am

    Very powerful, I remember reading about “los desaparecidos” in college Latin American history classes. It was nice to see that international scientists were helping to give some form of closure to families using modern DNA testing/ forensic anthropology to identify stolen children and those interred in mass graves.

    • Fiona Ryan June 26, 2016, 5:22 pm

      Quite coincidentally, I read a story on Stuart’s (Nomadic Paths) blog about the disappeared in Chile. People in places like Australia don’t realise how good they have it and how lucky they are to be able to speak out about the government with no need to fear reprisals.

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