She walks alone / by Jean De Wandelaer

This article comes from HRNet.
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Sender: peacenews @ gn DOT apc . org - August 23, 1995

It happened on 21 July 1976 in Libertador General San Martin and Calilegua -- two villages in Jujuy, northern Argentina. General blackout: the military, with the help of the owners of the local sugar refinery, Ledesma, kidnapped hundreds of people, taking them to a clandestine detention centre. Thirty of them never came back, and are still "disappeared".

The mothers or wives of those 30 people soon began to get organised, visiting jails, police offices, military barracks, and churches. They began to walk every Thursday around the main square of San Martin, each with a white scarf on her head. As time went by, some got sick, some died, some left the village, some were -- and are -- afraid.

Often now, Olga is the only one to walk around the square. Her husband, a politician at the time of his kidnap, is one of the 30,000 Argentine disappeared people. Olga has refused to leave the village; to leave the struggle.

Since 1983, on the Thursday closest to 21 July, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and other popular organisations go to Olga's village, and walk with her and other mothers the 7km between Calilegua and San Martin, to ask for truth and justice. This year, there were over 150 people, about three times as many as last year.

Some of the Mothers are quite old, but they find enough strength to accompany the march. Most local people do not accompany the demonstration. Although they know very well the reasons of it, they still feel fears. Many of them work in the Ledesma sugar refinery, in the same very bad conditions as 19 years before, when trade unionists struggled for change and were victims of the military dictatorship.

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo are a leading example of nonviolent struggle in Latin America. Because of their work, their solidarity, their spirit, memory is still alive. [There are two groups of Mothers, the "association", whose activities were described in the February Peace News, and the "linea fundadora" or founding line. The San Martin and Calilegua mothers are involved in the Linea Fundadora group, which has close relationships to human rights groups such as Serpaj-Argentina -- whose office in Buenos Aires they now share.]

This year, several former military officials have talked about the past, telling terrible stories of torture, killings, and persons thrown into the sea from aircraft. It took 20 years before those people began to talk, to say what the mothers and others had been saying for a long time, and if they did, it is partly because the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo are still walking around the squares.

In what was intended as a gesture of reconciliation, the government recently gave out more names of "disappeared" people; but the Mothers and other human rights organisations have not asked for such a list-- they have this information already. Rather, they are asking questions about what happened to these people and who is responsible for these acts.

The Mothers will continue in their work. After the march in Libertador General San Martin, there was a party, where the Mothers were not dancing alone. Olga told me "this party gives me a lot of strength, because when it finished, people left and I'll be able to walk alone again".

Madres de Plaza de Mayo -- linea fundadora,
Piedras 730, Buenos Aires 1070, Argentina

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