“Our children gave their lives for a dream that we renew every day.” The voice of Hebe de Bonafini, the historic leader of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, born in 1928, does not betray her age. “The Madres,” the organization which she helped found on April 30, 1977, is celebrating 39 years. On March 24 of the previous year, a military junta had seized power in Argentina, triggering a crackdown that, in six years, caused about 30,000 citizens to disappear.
Defying danger, on that April 30, the Madres launched to the world a symbol of resistance, like a flag: a white handkerchief inscribed with the names of their missing children, a cloth diaper with which they were bound as babies. Simple women, gradually more and more conscious and organized, aware of the risk and willing to pay the price of life. On Dec. 10, 1977, the International Day of Human Rights, the newspaper of the Madres published the list of the disappeared children.
That night, the worker Azucena Villaflor, one of the founders, was kidnapped by a death squad and brought to one of the death camps, probably Esma. Her remains were found on July 8, 2005, during the season of the trials against the dictatorship leaders. Her ashes were buried at the foot of the May Pyramid, in the center of the Plaza de Mayo, on Dec. 8, 2005, at the conclusion of the 25th resistance parade of the Madres.
Today, the white handkerchief has become a national symbol of Argentina “and for all the peoples of the world, it represents the struggle, the resistance, the collective transformation,” writes Kabawil, the Italian support group to Madres. For their 39th birthday, Kabawil organized a march, which ended in Mar del Plata. Il manifesto spoke with Bonafini at the event.