Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Then and Now: A Comparative Analysis of its Fractured Factions and Lasting Sybolism in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Research Mentor and Department
Professor Ignacio Sánchez-Prado
I conducted research on three different factions of the original Madres de Plaza de Mayo cause in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora, and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. Through interviews and archival research, I have completed a comparison of the three groups. I have concluded that although their original cause of demanding the whereabouts of their disappeared children united them, they are now deeply fragmented among one another due to their differing opinions of how to achieve justice in post-Dirty War Argentina. Furthermore, it is interesting to note the commercialization and politicization of the Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo, compared to their vocal anti-government, revolutionary stance that drove them to the far left of their peers. Furthermore, despite a small empire of sorts being built around the symbolism of their token white scarves and weekly protests, it is interesting to note that for the two Madres groups (excluding the Abuelas), the future of their organizations after the eventual deaths of the original members is largely unclear. With this in mind, the significance of my research into these women is made greater and more pressing than ever before. Their advancing ages make it even more important to record their testimonies—in fact, after working to find her daughter and grandchild for nearly four decades, one woman who I talked to revealed that she had just turned 96 years old. Still, overall, it is clear that the symbolic presence of the original Madres de Plaza de Mayo cause, one of demanding justice and preserving memory, is more pervasive than ever in Argentine society and the city of Buenos Aires itself. In this manner, there is considerably less general public attention paid to the specific differences and stances of each respective faction, as the way in which the Madres de Plaza de Mayo are woven into the nation’s social fabric is utilized to promote perceptions of Argentine resilience to tourists and among citizens themselves. Overall, the symbolism of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo has become one of the most useful tool of reconciliation, and allows Argentines to simultaneously confront the horrors of the past while building national pride and identity around the strength and bravery shown by the mothers. In my opinion, this is one of the leading factors that has helped Argentina undergo one of the most thorough and complete process of post-conflict reconciliation among post-dictatorship South American countries.
Human Rights Law Commons, International Humanitarian Law Commons, International Law Commons, Latin American History Commons, Latin American Languages and Societies Commons, Political History Commons, Women's History Commons
Acknowledgements: First and foremost, thank you to Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora, La Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo, and Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo for their time and kindness in granting me interviews and for allowing me to photograph their members, their offices, and their activities. Also, thank you to María Luisa Ortiz and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, Chile for their guidance in my research on human rights and justice in the Southern Cone. Thank you to Evelyn Vitagliano of Pontificia Universidad Católica, Professor Grinor Rojo of the University of Chile, and the Llusa Plaza-Sánchez family for their overwhelming support throughout my time in South America. Thank you to Washington University in St. Louis and their Office of Undergraduate Research, specifically Ms. Kristen Sobotka, for their financial assistance, and to my advisor Professor Ignacio Sánchez-Prado for his supervision. And, as always, thank you to my parents, Elizabeth and E.S. Anton, for their endless support and encouragement to explore new cultures.