The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

An unexpected turn of events led me to Buenos Aires. A short hop from São Paulo for a quick visit! As I had limited time, I took a taxi across the city in one direction and returned the other way at a more relaxed pace. From La Boca to La Recoleta, I had eight kilometers to meander through and enjoy Buenos Aires. The district is fairly touristy (way too much, to be honest), but I was delighted by the bright colors of La Boca. I made my way at a gentle pace, admiring the work of a garlic braider and catching locals drinking Mate in a garage filled with a motley collection of items, before losing myself among the antiques dealers in San Telmo. From narrow streets to avenues, I unwittingly arrived at Plaza de Mayo, where I was struck by the reigning hubbub. Clusters of people were gathered here and there, a group of veterans had set up camp a little further on and, in the center, a huge banner had been stretched out over several tens of meters. Plaza de Mayo is the rallying point for all types of causes, whether lost or not. Here, the Porteños demand their rights and defend their beliefs, and mothers call for justice.

Camera in hand, I ended up despite of myself in the midst of an excited crowd, where someone asked me if I had come to cover the event – The event? What event? An involuntary nod saw me swept among the journalists and cameramen. It was Thursday, and that day, as every Thursday, the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of Plaza de Mayo) had gathered. Ever since 30 April 1977, they have been persistently asking what has become of their lost children (I later learnt that nearly 30,000 people disappeared between 1976 and 1983). I was in prime position, just in front of the procession. Anonymous behind my camera lens, I observed these mothers who had never given up. They had covered their heads with a white shawl in keeping with their sign of identity. Some were determinedly gripping the banner while others, with tears in their eyes, shyly lowered their gaze. The emotion contagiously swept over me. I stayed with them for over two hours and was not left unaffected by the encounter. A lingering sadness remained in my heart as I travelled back to La Recoleta. Strangely, I ended my journey in front of the imposing eponymous graveyard. I like graveyards, with their muffled silence and the quietude it creates, the sometimes strange architecture of the graves, the silent, pensive sculptures that seem to observe passers-by. It amuses me sometimes to think that a white lady might be wandering beside me.

In less than 24 hours, Buenos Aires had left an indelible mark in my memory. I have returned several times since this occasion, and I am particularly looking forward to the next adventure, which will take me from Buenos Aires to Patagonia…

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