Mama and the Madres, Argentina, 1980-82

It has been two years since my brother, José disappeared. Mamá has been in complete despair since then. After spending nearly a year inquiring at police stations and government offices, even hiring a lawyer to file a plea for habeas corpus, all to no avail, she has given up looking for José, but has not given up hope of seeing him again. She does not know what to believe – maybe he is in a prison somewhere and will be released soon. Papá tells her that José has turned his back on us and is probably in Mexico or even Paris, enjoying his life with other subversive poets and that she should give up on him and be a family with two instead of three children. She has stopped talking to papá about José, but she is not giving up hope.

Mamá comes to my house a lot because she cannot stand to be alone with papá. We have spent long hours talking, hugging, crying. But we also play with the children – yes, I do now have a second child, a beautiful little girl, Maria. Mamá gets much pleasure playing with the children and I am happy that she feels some joy in her life with my kids.

Mamá has confided in me about something she is doing now that is a secret from the rest of the family. Over a year ago now, on one of her trips to Buenos Aires inquiring about José, she was in the Plaza de Mayo and saw women walking around carrying signs and pictures of their children who had also disappeared. She sat on a bench, pulled out the picture of José she carries around in her purse and cried. She was afraid to talk to anyone that day. Papá always says that the government and the military must take certain measures to insure a stable future for our country. People who are fomenting trouble must be eliminated or we will just end up in the mess we were in back in the early 1970s. So, on that first day in the Plaza, mamá sat there fearing for the lives of the women in the square and certainly did not think of joining them.

A few weeks later, though, she lied and told papá that her cousin, Louisa, in Buenos Aires was very sick and she needed her help. She went to the Plaza de Mayo and had the courage to speak to one woman. She told mamá about her daughter who had been kidnapped from her home in 1978 and has not been seen since. She tells her that she refuses to believe her daughter is dead until the military produces a body. Mamá listens to this story and cries thinking about her son, José. She found out that the Madres walk in the Plaza de Mayo every Thursday afternoon at 3:30. She has told papá that she must go to Buenos Aires often to care for Louisa. He believes her because he thinks all women are hysterical and fall ill at a moment’s notice. Mamá stays with Louisa who she has sworn to secrecy about her real reason for coming. Now mamá proudly marches with the Madres once a month or so. This does not give her hope that she will ever see José again, but it helps her cope and gives her strength to go on with her life.

1 thought on “Mama and the Madres, Argentina, 1980-82

  1. ssvolk says:

    Hola, Isabel. How good to hear from you again! First of all, congratulations on your new child! María! How wonderful. And it’s good that you’re there for your mother. I’m so glad that she has been able to connect with the Madres. I’ve always thought that you can only share your grief with someone who knows what it feels like. Sad, but probably true. And what are you doing? Home with the kids all the time?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *