Welcome to another Women in History Crush Wednesday! This post is going to be uncharacteristically short because I need to do school stuff but want to put out a post tonight. Instead of one woman, tonight our WCW is a group of women: the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.
Argentina in the mid to late twentieth century was marked by political and economic instability as the government cycled between military and civilian rule. In an attempt to fix the country’s economic crisis and out of fear of communist influence spreading from the Cuban Revolution, a military coup seized control of the state in 1976. The new administration immediately made a show of authoritarian power by launching a campaign to eliminate dissidents, which included leftist and Peronist groups, students and intellectuals, and anyone deemed to be in protest of the state. Now referred to as the Argentinian Dirty War, the attacks and abductions lasted from 1976 to 1983, and saw between ten and thirty thousand people imprisoned, tortured, and/or killed. Beyond the horror of so many people being harmed and murdered, the campaign inflicted necroviolence (a term coined in Jason De León’s book The Land of Open Graves, which I will write about and explain further later) on the people related to those targeted, as the victims disappeared and were generally erased from government records. Families were left in the dark, without any information about what happened to their loved ones nor where they or their bodies were.
In 1977, a group of about fifteen mothers whose children had disappeared at the hands of the government united in front of the capital, demanding the return of their children. These women marched in the plaza for weeks, growing in numbers until thousands of mothers and family members of people who had disappeared had organized. Government figures and police tried to break up the protests; the women officially founded the Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo to strengthen and continue their fight. The group quickly gained support from several countries, including Holland, Italy, Canada, France, and Spain. Their persistent protests incited anti-government sentiments across the nation, and in 1983, an election was held and a civilian-placed, democratic government took over. Human rights abuse cases against military leaders were brought to trial in the late 1980s – only a few high officials were convicted, with the others getting pardoned for “following orders” until recently.
There are other and more nuanced factors, but the sheer bravery of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo played a major role in leading to the fall of the authoritarian government and its abuses. To learn more, I recommend watching “Las madres de la Plaza de Mayo.”
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Women in History Crush Wednesdays!