Saturday, November 11, 2017

Urban Church in the Global City: A visit with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo


Marching with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

On a sunny afternoon we go to march and visit  with the Mothers of the Plaza Mayo. We gather in the Plaza, with  the Casa Rosa (Pink House) or presidential Palace at one end, now with more security fence between the palace and  the people.
La Casa Rosa
At first I am surprised to.learn that 40 years later, the Mothers are still marching.

Flags and signs are being passed out.
Flags for the march
I go over to the Mothers’ tent and am initially taken aback by the level of commercialism. The vast array of books, of course. But also t-shirts, scarves, hats. Officially licensed mates. And even a madres cook book. I think of institutionalization. And the need for funds, etc.

The march begins with appropriate chants.
The march begins ("The power of finance is terrrorism")
But when the speeches begin, there’s a distinct partisan tone. I see another march begin. And then I learn, as is so often the case, the mothers have had a split over political/ideological perspectives. 

The two groups, the Mothers Association and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo- Founding Line broke over the leadership of Hebe de Bonafini. The Founding Line faction prides itself on its horizontal leadership. They see the other group as to top down and having become basically an political arm of Cristina Kirchner and her brand of Peronism, somewhere between Eva Peron and Hillary Clinton with all that implies. The Founding Line are pledged to non-partisanship. They will not align wth any party or leader and will hold all equally accountable until the military files are opened and the truth revealed.

We go to the offices of the Founding Line to meet wth a long time stalwart founder Nora Morales de Cortinas.
She has been marching since 1977 when her person disappeared. The others courageously came to the Plaza wearing white scarves embroidered with the names of disappeared ones. Those scarves became the visible symbol of their movement.
white scarf monument
Some 30-40000 were disappeared or killed.
With Nora in front of the wall of the disappeared ones
Only 3-400 were released. Mass graves continue to be discovered. Some 500 children were born to detainees and given to military families without children, like something our of Handmaid’s Tale. (Maragret Atwood once said, “Nothing I wrote never happened."). 
The return of democracy has reunited some children to the families. But one can only imagine the psychic and spritiual pain such a reunion would cause.

And the military still won’t open its files. As an American from North America, it is painful to learn that the perpetrators of the “dirty war”  were trained by the (US)  School of the  Americas in Georgia. 

The significance  of the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado
Donde están Santiago Maldonado?
becomes more important  because it can be seen as the begging of a return to a time o disappearances and terror.  A case from four years ago has not been forgotten.

Th Roman Catholic hierarchy urges the Mothers to forgive and move on, but the mothers know from the experience of people in  places like South Africa, where there has been no truth there can be no reconciliation  and there can be no true peace.. It continues as an open wound.

There is little love lost for the institutional Catholic Church which was perceived to have looked the other way  out of fear for its own survival. Which includes our current Pope. “ A good man, but…”Nora says, lifting up her hands to finish her sentence.

(The only non-Argentine—and one of two clergy— chosen for the Commission to investigate the disappearances  (Conadep) was courageous witness for human rights  Rabbi Marshall Meyer.) 
Nora wondered what the Gendarme really felt

At the end of the  day, there are “founders” in both groups. And despite the differences, all have lost children. 
Every Thursday afternoon at 3 PM, the march continues. 


Also on the edge of the Plaza we find an encampment of Malvinas War veterans. They want equal recognition for those who served in the homeland. They even have a story of a British helicopter attack that touched the main land.  
Malvinas Veterans

On the plaza the unhealed wounds of Argentina’s  past decades continue. As does anxiety of an uncertain future under Macri. 

This is part of the context within which ministry is done. The Waldensians are there with solidarity. 

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