Thoughts on Argentina's Conjunctures :: Recuperating Work, Recovering Life (2005-2007)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nora Cortiñas gave a talk at York University yesterday

Last night I went to a stirring talk given by Nora Cortiñas, President and one of the founding members of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Linea Fundadora (Mothers of May Square), at the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC)at York University. Her talk was the 2006 Michael Baptista Lecture. Having talked about the plight of here still-missing son, Carlos Gustavo, hundreds of times by now, she spoke completely off notes. She received two standing ovations. Her continued struggle was an inspiration to us all.

I'll post my notes form the talk in the coming days. For now, here's a synopsis of some of the themes she touched - themes and tactics that are crucial for NSMs in Argentina these days:
*the continued fight against repression (state and other kinds),
*the importance of memory,
*reconceptualizing the 76-83 dictatorship as a "civic-militarist" government,
*"justicia y castigo" (justice and punishment) for those that continue to live with impunity,
*solidarity between Las Madres, other Argentine social moveements, and international NSMs and "madres de los desaparecidos" in other Latin American countries,
*the effects of internal and external exile and the disappearance of 30,000 of Argentina's most progressive and militant voices on the country and on the struggles for liberation,
*the "escrache" as a tactic of "social justice" in light of chronic impunity,
*the loss of identity of the children of the disappeared,
*the effects of the long era of neoliberalism in Argentina and its crystalization in the dictatorshio of 76-83,
*the tensions between securing a democratic state (to avoid the tragedies of the past and secure human rights) and the desire for autonomy.

From the event's announcement

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the 1976 military coup d'état that ushered in a seven-year military dictatorship in Argentina. An estimated 30,000 people were forcibly "disappeared", tortured and murdered during this period, among them, Cortiñas' son, Carlos Gustavo, a university student and member of the Peronist youth movement. Shortly after her son's "disappearance" in April 1977 and at the height of the military dictatorship, Nora joined a group of mothers who had met in the waiting rooms of police stations while trying to discover the whereabouts of their children and organized the first of a continuing series of demonstrations in front of the Presidential Palace in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

Ever since, each Thursday afternoon, the Mothers continue to march in the Plaza de Mayo, demanding that the fate of the victims be made known. The enormous risks they took was illustrated by the fact that some of them, including Azucena de Villaflor, their first president, themselves disappeared. Because of their bravery and sacrifices the Madres have become an important political force in Argentina and aninternational symbol of human rights activism. They continue to demand that the fate of the victims be made known and that justice be served for these crimes.

Cortiñas will discuss the history of the Madres and the role of women in struggles for human rights.

An internationally renowned human rights activist, Nora Cortiñas is a social psychologist and recipient of several honorary doctorates including from the National University of Salta and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. She holds a chair in the Economics Department at the University of Buenos Aires where she teaches on the
relationship between economic power and human rights.