The Irish super-group, U2 sang about them in Mothers of the Disappeared. These are every day Argentine mothers and grandmothers who lost their sons and daughters in the so-called Dirty War when they were seized by representatives of the military government of the time in the late 1970s. Most of the missing are assumed to have been tortured and murdered.
Every Thursday afternoon for over thirty years, this women’s group, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have gathered in the main square of Buenos Aires to seek reunification with their children and grandchildren. They walk, slowly and purposefully, in a large circle adorned by stylised white shawls painted on the ground. The painted symbols appear a little like white doves, the universal symbol of peace. The women wear simple matching head scarves in white, embroidered with the name or names of their missing children. They chat among themselves catching up on the weekly happenings.
Adorned with the city’s main cathedral, the presidential palace and several major government buildings, the Plaza de Mayo celebrates the May uprisings which earned Argentine independence from the Spanish in the early nineteenth century. The Mothers today who gather also seek their own freedom and closure in this main square which represents freedom protests from another eta.
Some appear worn down – maybe by the passage of time, maybe by a heavy heart over the lost of their young ones, maybe by the stark duality of the significance yet apparent futility of this weekly gathering. Others walk with a strength drawn from pride, unwearied by the years of fighting for reconnection with their loved ones.
One grandmother I spoke with indicated in her broken English that she had missed attending this walk less than ten times in all the years of this weekly pilgrimage of protest. Her will and strength made it seem to me to be the most important thing in her life.
Surely a mother or grandmother can show no greater love.