Thousands of Argentines commemorate the late co-founder of Plaza de Mayo
Thousands of Argentines on Thursday paid tribute to Hebe de Bonafini, who helped found the human rights group Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, as her ashes were scattered in Buenos Aires in the public square where she had led demonstrations for decades.
Bonafini, who died Sunday at the age of 93, helped found the women-led movement in 1977, despite the country’s previous military dictatorship, and demanded the truth about her missing children.
About 30,000 people were abducted and allegedly killed by the regime or right-wing death squads in the 1970s and 1980s for suspected left-wingers.
Alongside the disappearances have been widespread kidnappings of babies born to suspected dissidents being held under the right-wing dictatorship.
Bonafini last protested on November 10 despite failing health on the pitch, stating her doctors approved the activity because “they know it’s good for my health – that I need the pitch to take care of myself”.
For 45 years, through multiple governments, women have marched around the Plaza de Mayo in their signature white headscarves, in an often futile quest for justice.
On Thursday, five of her colleagues, who are among the last of the aging army, scattered their ashes in the greenery at the foot of an obelisk in the plaza while the crowd applauded and chanted, “Mothers of the plaza, the people embrace you.”
Elected officials and a significant number of women were in the crowd, including many who lived in fear during the brutal military regime of 1976-1983.
“To me, Hebe is a hero because searching for the missing is something few people have dared to do,” Virginia Garcia, 42, told AFP.
The Plaza de Mayo was adorned with photos of Bonafini and messages such as “We love you Hebe, mother of the people” and “To resist is to fight until Hebe.”
Bonafini, who attended rallies in a wheelchair in recent years, was born in 1928 in Ensenada, a city 60 kilometers from Buenos Aires.
She was a homemaker when the military took power in 1976, ousting Isabel Peron, wife of the late President Juan Peron.
In 1977 her sons and daughter-in-law were kidnapped and disappeared.
A few months later, she began protesting with a small group of women in front of the Casa Rosada, the pink presidential palace.
The mothers risked the same fate as their politically active children: torture, death or simply disappearing without a trace. Instead, the generals tried to laugh at them, mocking them as “crazy women.”