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The mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina

03 / 1994

April 1977: Fourteen women, pushed to despair by the administration’s refusal to answer as to the place where their children were being detained, met at May Square to present a demand to President Videla but were dispersed by the police. They then began to march around the May pyramid, opposite the presidential palace. Called the "Madwomen of the Plaza de Mayo" because they dared to defy the military dictatorship, fear could not deter them, even when they were subjected to repression; several of them were also to disappear. They then discovered the magnitude of the horror experienced by many victims, of the plan to exterminate all political opponents. Thus they converted their pain into a struggle and love by setting up a non-violent movement to which the they gave the name of the square.

Confronted by the inertia, silence and complicity of the institutions, and having exhausted Argentina’s meager legal machinery, the Mothers called on international authorities to demand conformity with the universally accepted norms of civilisation. They attempted to make opinion in their own country and around the world aware of the seriousness of the human rights violations committed by the military regime and of the danger of maintaining a repressive machine after having amnestied all the criminals. Peace, said the Mothers, was impossible without truth and justice.

They continue to fight today for an independent justice, for a political transformation that ensures peace, based on respect for life and all its rights, for the freedom of expression, thought, the right to education, health, and work. Their movement continues to bring together at Plaza de Mayo all those suffering from injustice, violations of their human rights and those who claim, like the Mothers, a life worth living for all. The Mothers do not look back to the past. The past has become a motor for their struggle and they therefore build the future by passing from the personal to the collective. They have their own rhythms and their own strategies. The extraordinary strength of their intuitions continues to spur women in other countries to set up similar movements: Latin America, Palestine, Lebanon, Israel, etc. Now, Yugoslavian women have made contact with them. The Mothers vigorously defend the moral principles destroyed by lust for power, corruption, indifference and absence of hope. Many young people follow and support them, committing themselves to the same ideals and seeks alternatives based on the respect of human dignity.

After a stage of becoming aware of the reality of the genocide and a progression of their personal experience towards consideration of a universal problem, the Mothers have committed themselves to promoting education for peace. They work ceaselessly and perserveringly :

  • weekly meetings at Plaza de Mayo on Thursdays,

  • a march for resistance for 24 hours followed by thousands of young people every year since December 1981,

  • discussions, formal lectures, lectures in schools, colleges and universities at home and abroad (in 1991 at the University of Huelva, Spain);

  • meetings-training-debates in poor districts and with native groups from Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Australia, etc.

  • travelling photographic exhibitions, film and video shows about their movement;

  • books published in Argentina and abroad;

  • participation in walks and demonstrations for the protection of human rights at home and abroad: Chile, Brazil, , etc.

  • publication of a monthly journal called "Madres de la Plaza de Mayo" giving all the information on the socio-political-economic reality of Argentina and on violations of human rights;

  • publication of newsletters abroad;

  • press conferences, programs on Argentinian radio, interviews on local and foreign television;

  • active solidarity with other Mothers’ movements around the world that fight for similar goals (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Yugoslavia, etc.);

  • creative workshops and literary exchanges;

  • information workshops on current affairs in the country.

Key words

woman, history, collective memory, injustice, civil resistance, non violence, peace education, women’s organization

, Argentina


Respect and recognition for the Mothers’ combat has been expressed in the awarding of internationally acknowledged prizes.


SOLMA is a group of women from the whole world active in the transformation of the relations between human beings, so that children and young people can get an education based on solidarity, liberty, equality, respect of environment and defence of human rights, which shows the way of peace and coexistence.

This sheet is based on a speech made at the International meeting of mothers held in Paris from 27 to 31 March 1994. Contact : MADRES DE PLAZA DE MAYO, Hipoloto Yrigoyen 1442, 1089 Buenos Aires, ARGENTINE, Tel. (541)383-0377/383-6430, Fax: (541)954-0381. Original text in French in this data base.


Organisation presentation ; Colloquium, conference, seminar,… report


SOLMA (Solidarité avec les Mères de la Place de Mai) - 18 rue Nollet, 75017 Paris, FRANCE - Tél. 33 (0)1 43 87 59 00 - Fax 33 (0)1 42 94 09 86 - France

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