One day in April of 1977, led by their own grief, the mothers of those disappeared by the dictatorship got together at the Plaza de Mayo square for the first time. Something occurred at that place, something related to the reconstitution of life, something they could not abandon any more and which calls them all every Thursday. Permanence, as the key value of their praxis, is their discovery in their struggle, and as such a value it is the key of the popular movement to open the door of its path into the future. With permanence or by means of it, the exhausted popular forces hardly alive after the genocide [1], reinforced their structure and managed to stand over the line that marks the beginning of ethical disarmament. Then, permanence is one of the constituent elements of resistance. The Mothers understood that since the very moment they committed themselves to take a different action in the face of dictators, and which showed how far they were able to go as mothers encouraged by their love for their children.
“We call on the people, labour, student, religious, professional and political organizations to gather at the Plaza de Mayo square on Thursday, December 10 at 15:30 hours, where we will hold a march “as a symbol of the resistance of the Mothers”, and extend our permanence in that place as an expression of our reiterated claim for truth and justice and against the stubborn silence which intents to sink our drama into oblivion.” That way, the Mothers called their “First Resistance March”, in December, 1981. Interesting enough is the use of the verb “to hold” to refer to the staging of the march. The Mothers’ resistance suggests holding with their own bodies the extension of their original way of struggle –the circular march at the Plaza de Mayo- by creating a new sense of permanence: it is not about staying where and how the state of siege prohibits, but about doubling or quadrupling the bet in order to win not only space and action for freedom struggles against the dictatorship, but also time. Twenty four hours of minute-to-minute confrontation against genocide.

With their marches, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo create a new kind of action

One hundred fifty Mothers will carry out their heroic deed creating a new struggle modality as they march. Legs swell up, blisters show on the soles of their feet, night falls across from the strongly guarded Government Palace, where the military think of the succession of Viola by Galtieri. The march keeps in silence, eighty still left, seventy Mothers holding arm in arm, the police force largely outnumbers the group of women that leaves its courageous imprint while the whole city sleeps and does not dream of the Plaza de Mayo square and its mysteries.

This first march will not have a closing speech, but the extension of the demonstration through the Avenida de Mayo avenue up to Lima street as they cry “The disappeared, say where they are”, they march accompanied by some 2,500 people who save the shame of a society that left the Mothers alone.

Since December 1981, the Mothers have staged their march year after year, as a combat synthesis of different struggles undertaken by our people over the past 25 years in the history of Argentina, but marked by the rebel bodies of these Mothers as the basic political ground that serves to unite resistance forces in different contexts.

In that way, the Resistance March, criticized, misunderstood, underestimated at the beginning by many, goes on increasing cycles as part of the hard resistance posed by our people to the dictators’ plans of continuity (Viola planned to keep “ruling” up to 1989), and later, following the impunity well planned by the Union Civica Radical party (UCR) and Alfonsin [2] After the auction of the country that took place during the 10-year term of Menem [3] and the bloody pantomime of the La Alianza [4]. The “Resistance March” was always there boosting struggle even when terror still determines our people’s everyday life, rekindling intelligence, courage and prevalence in times marking the end of ideologies, the end of history, the end of everything that would suggest the improvement of life for the majority of the people; the prevalence of struggle which, we insist, can re-launch the popular forces into new combat cycles.

“Apparition with life”, slogan of the first march, patrimony of resistance, unique synthesis of the vital culture of the Mothers, which was able to wipe out the “presumption of death”, the horror show, the bourgeois attempt to reduce the political advancement represented by the generation of the disappeared in a gloomy group of bones.

“No more soldiers”a cry used in 1986, the sixth march, when Alfonsin increasingly showed his military college uniform below his suit of lawyer as he proclaimed the constitutional preamble. The Mothers were again criticized by the thoughtful press and reasonable intellectuals: they were aggressive, ultra, violent…Four months later it was the people who took to the streets asking for weapons to defend the democracy of advancement carapintadas [5] and launched threats:Don’t you dare, if you do, we will burn your barracks”.

“Rebelliousness for the struggle, courage to keep going”, that is what the Mothers said in 1990, when frivolity seemed to do away with the workers’ achievements: the eight working hours, paid vacations, right to strike, a decorous pension, the education of the people as a bet on the future. Menem and his cohort completed the extermination launched by the dictatorship: he pardoned murderers, privatized the railroad, gas, energy, oil, water…the very human life with the repeated degraded gesture of the servile and a big group of paid accomplices.

“The only struggle you lose is the one you abandon”

But the Mothers learned first than nobody else their lesson and turned the courage they need to keep on into the arm that rescued thousands of fighters from sadness and isolation: “ The only struggle you lose is the one you abandon”they claimed in the middle of the square, on the moor, as in the full sunshine of their children, and what a sunshine!. It was in 1995, at daybreak the square’s floor was covered with the pictures of the 30,000 disappeared and as footnotes of the pictures there was the feeling of the people, who find shelter in the tenacious arms of these restless Mothers: “Always, always, always, we keep dreaming of liberation”, “They are not only memories, they are open life”, “Jail those responsible of genocide”, “You will live for ever”.

The Mothers upkeep the upcoming struggle; they come before the storm and move amidst the storm: in the coming years, they will say “Enough!” with unemployment, poverty, hunger; they will demand freedom for political prisoners, they will denounce that unemployment is a crime and by the turn of the century, they will welcome the new year at the square, holding fast to a banner representing their collective experience: “Living and fighting injustice”.

“Combat and Resistance against state terrorism” they said with usual firmness on December, 2001, just few weeks before the people’s uprising that ousted De la Rua, Storani, Cavallo, among others, who made up the pantheon of politicians usable for anti-popular aims.

“Resisting is Walking”

After the uprising, the Mothers of Resistance have obsessively returned looking at the economic aspect of the extermination plan undergone by our people, and their sleepless action now focuses on the foreign debt, the key used to get hold of our national resources, a way to present another reality to the thousand jobless and hungry whose number increases with every coin used to pay the debt that was never contracted and which is permanently being suffered by our people.

With tired feet and lively thinking, the Mothers have come to their “twenty fifth Resistance March” together with “1,500 Thursdays of struggle at the Plaza de Mayo square” and they assert that this March is a strong demand, a feast for life, the last one: “We have always done everything by ourselves”, says Hebe de Bonafini, the President of the Association of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, resisting is resisting, resisting is walking. (…) And now we, the Mothers, are very old; we can not walk during 24 hours or during 20 hours; sometimes we can not walk even for five hours. It is really hard for us and then we think that the cycle is closing this fantastic way: March number 25, all 1,500 Thursdays…”. However, the walk will go on at the Plaza de Mayo square.

Each March is different and this one involves more than a celebration, a nut twist, the reaffirmation that, in the images beamed by the Mothers you can see what can be sustained with your own body: a political value nourished with intelligence, militant honesty and the commitment to improve what the Mothers left as their legacy. The sons and daughters went as far as they said they would, they do not write their names on the banner to later see the march on their TV screens, they prefer to create what is new when it has not been created yet: the “Resistant March” in 1981 and before, in 1977, the Thursday march and later the Newspaper, the Bookstore, the People’s University, and after that, the radio, the TV channel. Like in 1981 without taking a step backwards, they go into the future while other sleep.

The resistance of the Mothers: interview with Hebe de Bonafini

What is the 25 Resistance March and the 1,500 Thursday event going to be like?

All we have prepared is based on concerts, music, poetry during 24 hours. This will be dedicated to our children and to all those comrades in the factories, since we consider them very close to our children, and in the factories is where we feel ourselves best represented. So, the comrades from the factories will deliver their speech at the square, the Mothers will speak after them. It is going to be like a celebration. And it will be the last Resistance March.

What comes first and last in this moment, this decision?

We feel that calling a Resistance March in which the Mothers can not withstand 24 hours is a ridiculous thing because it is like sending others to resist for us. We have always done everything by ourselves, resisting is resisting, resisting is walking. I quarrelled in the First Resistance March, when they told me that I did not know what resistance meant. For me, resisting is resisting, it is walking. And now we, the Mothers, are very old, we can not walk during 24 hours or 20 hours; sometimes we can not walk during five hours. It is hard for us and then we believe that the cycle is closing in this fantastic way: March number 25, all 1,500 Thursdays and other opportunities open up, marvellous ones: the University, the school, the radio, maybe a TV channel; then we have other places to fight, to speak out. Of course we will continue with our march every Thursday. That one will exist forever, for life, until only one of us remain there to march. But this one is the last Resistance March.

And what can you tell us about the slogan: “Against hunger, which is a crime”?

We have always marched for our children who claimed that idea; after that, we demanded “Trial and punishment”, and all those things you know, but resistance was made in a very hard way so we do not want to abandon it. “One thousand five hundred Thursdays in struggle and resistance against hunger, which is a crime”, I think the slogan is quite clear and that it expresses that we, the Mothers, keep saying that hunger is a crime and we have to find a solution to that.

Do you want to add something else?

I think that the Mothers have always been very creative as to what we have done and the creation of the Resistance March was only possible if we resisted; if not it can then be called differently like a picketing march…may be other way, but the Resistant March is the creation by the Mothers; it is their own invention and the resistance of the Mothers, who never give in, who never sold the blood of our children, and who never negotiated anything, who never accepted anything linked to death; the March has to keep going and linked to life, therefore, it will be like a celebration.

[1during the dictatorship imposed from 1976 to 1983, but which had already been established some years before, the military disappeared 30,000 people.

[2In 1983, after its defeat against the British at the Falklands, the dictatorship gave way to a civil government led, up to 1989, by Raul Alfonsin, of the UCR.

[3who was Argentinean President from 1989 to 1999, he imposed an ultra-liberal policy by privatizing most of the country’s riches.

[4a left-wing coalition led by the UCR, Fernando de la Rua came to power in 1999, but he turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and led the country into the 2001 crisis. He violently repressed huge popular demonstrations which concluded on December 19 and 20 with dozens killed.

[5those favouring military coup.