Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo

Why is it that seeing something for yourself, in person, makes it so much more real? Even when you already believed without a doubt that it existed?

Today I saw the quiet protest of Argentinian mothers and grandmothers marching around Plaza de Mayo, asking to know what happened to their children 40 years ago. These are the famous Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo: the first to organize and publicly speak up against the military dictatorship of the 1970s.

Their children were kidnapped, disappeared without a trace, because the government saw them or their families as a threat. Most were around my age, college students. And an estimated 500 babies were born into captivity during this so-called “Dirty War” and secretly adopted out.

Las Madres want to reunite these children with their families. Most of these women still have never found their own children, but they are fighting for the children of others as well.

Every Thursday, they parade silently in front of La Casa Rosada (the presidential offices), raising awareness for their cause. They work tirelessly to identify the missing children, to find out what happened to them (because many were killed). They strive to reunite these “disappeared ones” to their original families.

It’s actually a controversial movement, because others argue that taking an adult from the family he or she thought was their own, and telling them they were illegally adopted, could be traumatizing.

But I think that the truth, no matter how painful, is always preferable. I applaud these brave and determined women for their impressive commitment to righting the wrongs of a cruel government 40 years ago.

The symbolic headscarves of Las Madres are painted onto Plaza de Mayo.