The Political Side of Things in Buenos Aires

Argentina, Buenos Aires, travel, photographyMaybe it was because I’m a Pisces, or perhaps that I lived in Florida in 10 years, or just that I love the beach, but when our all-knowing travel guide asked us to guess what this shape represented, I guessed, “a fish?” Luckily, my fearless travel buddy, Kirsten, was a bit more on the money: “a lady’s head?” Sure enough, this was one of the famous head scarves, the symbol of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. The brave women started silently marching near the presidential palace, Casa Rosada, every Thursday during the Dirty War of the 1970s and 80s, a war which scared even the bravest men into silence. With the names of their missing children embroidered on their scarves, they demonstrated for justice, despite so many people “disappearing” for doing much less. Most recently, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have worked with a government team to use DNA testing to return many of the kidnapped/re-assigned children from the war to their biological families. It’s a fascinating story from a horrific time. So far, less than 50 of these (now grown) children of war have been re-introduced to their families, but hundreds have been identified. As far as I know, none of these children have given an interview about whether or not they left the parents who raised them despite now knowing that those parents knew they’d been ripped from their biological moms and dads, how that felt. I’m on the lookout but have been unable to find anything on-line. Please send me a link if anyone knows anything! Here are a few more photos of the capitol.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, travel, photography

An indigenous flag flying in the sun near Buenos Aires’ government buildings.


Argentina, South America, travel, photography

The Casa Rosada presidential palace, which Eva “Evita” Peron, and later Madonna, made famous.


Argentina, Buenos Aires, travel, photography

A casting of the famous “Thinker” sculpture.

Argentina, South America, travel, photography

A super-Latin politician’s campaign poster.

Argentina, South America, travel, photography

Political graffiti is prevalent.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, travel, photographyThe national Congressional building.

Again, many thanks toΒ Buenos Aires Local Tours, whose passionate tour guide Jonathan was a wealth of knowledge about these political tragedies. He does the tours for tips only. I highly recommend!

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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Comments

  1. I thought that was a fish too — and I’m neither a Pisces nor a former Floridian. Thanks for this history lesson! You learn so much when you travel — you can’t help it…

  2. That’s so sad and it’s crazy how you can go about a place seeing these images without knowing these the history behind them.

    arrriba!

  3. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to find out your parents stole you from your biological parents! I would love to read one of those interviews as well.

  4. Liz and Lindsay — Learning all of this kind of stuff is what gets me to do tours, even though the idea of a guided tour makes my skin crawl. I’m getting used to them, because you just learn and see so much more than on your own. Besides, I was there for two weeks — and Jonathan’s tour was so fun!

    Rease — if you find an interview, let me know!! I’m fascinated…

  5. Good to know and see more about it! Thanks, Abby πŸ˜‰

  6. I do remember reading something about those grandmothers – terrible. Argentina has some really sad things in its past. We spoke to another woman whose husband had died as a result of something to do with the government and police and it sounded shady. We didn’t want to press for details but I was aware of these families when travelling in the country.

  7. What a story. I just read the wiki page on this too. I am glad that even 20-30 years later some care enough to help these people.

    I’m not adverse to tours as long as it’s not taking up the majority of my time somewhere.

  8. I know what you mean, Andrea! I’ve met a few people I’ve never wanted to press…

    Those women are so loyal, Shaun — they still march every Thursday!

  9. Jonathan really does a great tour, I had been to Plaza de Mayo a dozen times and didn’t know anything about its historical significance until my morning with him.

  10. Really interesting … and sad. I love tours where you actually learn something that impacts you! πŸ™‚

  11. I was really surprised when I learned about these recent developments in Buenos Aires. It is very hard to imagine being in that situation.

    I really learned a lot on Jonathan’s tour.

  12. Very interesting and sad. You might try checking with Amnesty International for more information. I did some volunteering with their campaign to get justice for “the disappeared” in Central America.

  13. Ayngelina and Stephanie: thank you SO much for the tour recommendation. It was really, really great.

    Diana — Impactful was the exact word I was looking for.

    Good idea, Jenna! Thanks so much. I’d love to read about what you did in Central America.

  14. I learned about this in a college class I don’t remember (but obviously good enough for this history lesson to stick).

  15. Interesting post- I would have guessed fish, too!

  16. What happened in Argentina during those years is beyond horrifying. I met a family who managed to escape the country, they said it’s not even possible to tell the fear everybody was going through. One day you simply couldn’t be around anymore.

  17. I was in BA in 1997 and saw the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Relentless admirable organisation that. So many Latin American countries suffered under right-wing military dictatorships. Up here in Norway, we still have numerous Chileans who came as political refugees.

    If you’re still in BA, Amnesty might be able to get you in touch with the mothers for an interview. Or the organisation directly – http://www.madres.org/navegar/nav.php

  18. Reading that story gave me chills… I didn’t know anything about the ‘Dirty War.’

    And I thought it was a fish, too πŸ™‚

  19. There’s a great book called “Circle of love over death” by Matilde Mellibovsky, written by a female journalist who immersed herself into the lives of these mothers and explains things in great detail.

  20. Sophie — I would love to do a project on them, to give them more international recognition and exposure. I think more outsiders should know more.

    Federico — thank you so much for this book rec. I’ve ordered it on amazon. i can’t wait to read it.

  21. It’s so sad, parents would go to their childrens bedrooms in the morning to wake their children up, only to find they had disappeared. This was the same government that sent its young men to war against the UK in a fight they knew they wouldn’t in the Falkland Isles.

  22. How absolutely interesting. I knew that Argentina had a violent past in the 80s and 90s, but I didn’t know any of the details of it until now. I’ll appreciate the significance of the plaza even more once I make it there in a few months. Its always great to learn something new about a future destination.

    I thought the shape in the first photo was a bald-headed bird with a big eye… oh, well!

  23. Oh, Sherry, I can’t believe you’re going there soon! You will love it… And find the plaza very moving and impactful.

  24. Federico’s book recommendation sounds so interesting. As a parent of 2 little boys, it would be hard for me to read about such horrors. And regarding your comment above, I didn’t actually volunteer in Central America. I volunteered here in the U.S. but the disappeared were in C. America. Sorry for not being clear!

  25. I’ve been to BA twice and had no idea about this. Its true how you can travel to places and have no idea about the history behind some of it. Shame on me for not learning more! Thank you for sharing this.

  26. great post abby! mi cuΓ±ado (now ex bro-in-law) gave me a tour on my first visit to buenos aires and told me the history complete with details about how my ex’s uncle, a powerful lawyer, was assassinated during this time. unimaginable to me. πŸ™ your photos set a perfect tone here- beautiful and somber. thanks for sharing this info πŸ™‚

  27. Sobering post here, but wow, what a great history lesson — thanks for sharing…

  28. Argentina’s history is really painful. Every time I pass by Casa Rosada and see the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo my heart breaks into a million pieces.

  29. This is interesting. I had no idea about this side of Buenos Aires and when I go, will definitely check into this tour. Thanks for the insight!

  30. Great post! It is very interesting… now I may need to put Buenos Aires to my travel wish list!

  31. Hey Abby, glad you liked the book recommendation! If we were any closer I could have simply lent it πŸ™‚

  32. dear abby, thanks for such a fascinating post. this is just the kind of story that should be told again and again. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for a visit to BA in November or sometime in 2012, and will definitely look into a tour with Jonathan when I do make it!

  33. That politician has hair like mine, just before I decided to end it all (my hair, I mean).

    ….

    I can’t believe I just wrote that. Even though it’s true.

  34. I have never seen an interview with one of these children, but I can only imagine the conflicted feelings they must have.

    In Spanish class we watched a movie on a story about that. I am drawing a blank on the name right now but I’ll definitely try to remember tomorrow when I’m less dead and email you. I think you’d love it. It’s fascinating.

  35. Are there any statues of Che Guevara in BA? Or maybe something marking where his childhood home was?

    My sister’s name is Evita and she was named after Evita Peron.

    It seems that Argentinians are as passionate about politics as they are about football.

  36. Bob Crunch says:

    Very interesting article. Also those are some pretty great photos. I thought it looked like the Breast Cancer Awareness ribbon, but only blue.

  37. Thanks for bringing attention to this, Abby! I remember reading about it and seeing a documentary in college. Powerful, heartbreaking stories!

  38. This kind of stuff is why everyone should get out there and see the world. Interesting story.

  39. So, I’m a bit slow and have only just seen the two posts you did from the tour – the pics are great and I’m so pleased you enjoyed yourselves! I was at a loose end on a Thursday a couple of weeks ago so I headed down to Plaza de Mayo to get some photos of the Madres – they give quite a good idea of what happens every week.
    Hope to see you again down here soon!

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