Recovering Memory, Truth and Justice after 40 Years of Political Repression

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Two weeks ago Voluntario Global had its traditional volunteers meeting, a space where everyone can meet each other and share something about their culture.

This time we met at Cafe de Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a place created by a human rights organization formed by argentine mothers who are fighting to find their children that went missing during the military dictatorship that took place from 1977 until 1983.

Now some of those mothers have become grandmothers after finding out that their grandchildren were born during this time. In fact on June 13th, Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo announced that they could reintegrate the 130th grandson from the dictatorship. We took this opportunity to talk about historical memory, truth and justice in Argentina.

In 1976 Argentina was going through an unstable political and economical hardship. Juan Domingo Perón had died three years prior and his wife María Estela Martínez, known as “Isabelita”, was now replacing him as president. In addition, there was a growing political polarization between the people who supported her and the ones who wanted her out power. Finally, a political coup that had been planned for months took place and the military regime started.

La Junta Militar, as they called themselves, started a targeting campaign towards anyone who was politically active against them and their methods were absolutely macabre. They decided to kidnap and imprison thousands of people in what are now called detention centers, torture them and ultimately killed them in “vuelos de la muerte”. Many of the women held captive were pregnant and gave birth under horrible circumstances. These babies were separated from them and given to families in the military and politically powerful positions.

Madres de Plaza de Mayo have been responsible of recovering social memory and justice from the government and have fought to seek answers to the crimes and atrocities that were committed and silenced for decades. Finding their missing ones has been one of the most difficult tasks this brave women have had to endure. But it has paid off, now hundreds of families have been reunited and are trying to understand what happened, remember the victims and demand justice from the State.

In Argentina, historical memory plays an essential role in society and its people have made sure to generate a remembrance of their glorious and not so glorious days. Besides the most known work of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, in Buenos Aires you can visit the biggest ex detention center, ex ESMA, (they were about 400 throughout the country) that is now a museum. It shows and recreates how this military compound was transformed into a torture prison, the entrance is for free and they offer multiple tours in spanish and english every day.

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