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30,000 People Were 'Disappeared' in Argentina's Dirty War. These Women Never Stopped Looking

March 7, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Draped in lush trees and surrounded by stately buildings, Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo might look like a place to check out monuments or stop for a relaxing rest. But each Thursday, one of Argentina’s most famous public squares fills with women wearing white scarves and holding signs covered with names.

They are the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and they are there to bring attention to something that threw their lives into tragedy and chaos during the 1970s: the kidnapping of their children and grandchildren by Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship.

For decades, the women have been advocating for answers about what happened to their loved ones. It’s a question shared by the families of up to 30,000 people “disappeared” by the state during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” a period during which the country’s military dictatorship turned against its own people.

Clara Jurado (center) and other Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo claim for their missing children in front of the government house in 1982. From 1976-1983 during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” up to 30,000 people “disappeared”.

View the 8 images of this gallery on the original article

In 1976, the Argentine military overthrew the government of Isabel Perón, the widow of populist president Juan Perón. It was part of a larger series of political coups called Operation Condor, a campaign sponsored and supported by the United States.

The military dictatorship that resulted called itself the “Process of National Reorganization,” or “Proceso,” and dubbed its activities the Dirty War. But the war wasn’t with outside forces: It was with the Argentinian people. The war ushered in a period of state-sponsored period of torture and terrorism. The junta turned against Argentina’s citizens, whisking away political dissidents and people it suspected of being aligned with leftist, socialist or social justice causes and incarcerating, torturing and murdering them.

The Dirty War was fought on a number of fronts. The junta dubbed left-wing activists “terrorists” and kidnapped and killed an estimated 30,000 people. “Victims died during torture, were machine-gunned at the edge of enormous pits, or were thrown, drugged, from airplanes into the sea,” explains Marguerite Feitlowitz. “Those individuals came to be known as “the missing,” or desaparecidos.”

The government made no effort to identify or document the desaparecidos. By “disappearing” them and disposing of their bodies, the junta could in effect pretend they never existed. But the family members and friends …read more


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