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UNIT 23: People Shape the World

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VIDEO SEGMENT: Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Revolution and Resistance in Argentina)

Sometimes, individuals can band together to effect dramatic social change. This segment explores the example of Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of mothers who challenged the Argentinian government's brutal policies of torture and murder.

After several decades of political turmoil, in 1976 a military coup seized power under the leadership of General Jorge Rafael Videla. Once in power, the military government began removing — through kidnapping and assassination — all "threats" to the regime, especially intellectuals, leftists, and socially active young people. Eventually, the numbers of "the Disappeared" reached thirty thousand.

The mothers of the Disappeared began to ask questions about the locations of their children. When going to the police and church authorities led nowhere, the mothers rallied together — at great personal risk — to protest. Each week, Las Madres gathered at the Plaza de Mayo, bearing white handkerchiefs embroidered with the names of their lost children. In 1978, when the World Cup was held in Argentina, Las Madres attracted international media attention and spurred worldwide demonstrations of solidarity.

When the military government finally fell in 1982, the newly-elected civilian government created a commission to investigate the fate of the Disappeared. Although none of those responsible were punished for their crimes, Las Madres have become heroes in Argentina, the military has lost all respect among the people, and in 2003 the government sought once again to bring the murderers of the Disappeared to trial. Moreover, Las Madres are still fighting to keep the memories of their children alive.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Owen Franken, MADRES DE PLAZA DE MAYO- A WOMAN SELLS NEWSPAPERS TO FUND THE INVESTIGATION OF THE DISAPPEARANCE OF HER CHILDREN, BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (1986). Image donated by Corbis - Bettmann.

Anonymous, ISABEL PERON (1975). Image donated by Corbis - Bettmann.


Anonymous, AERIAL PHOTO OF PLAZA DE MAYO, BUENO AIRES, ARGENTINA (1951). Image donated by Corbis - Bettmann.

Roberto Candia, ARGENTINA, MOTHER OF THE PLAZA DE MAYO (2002). Courtesy of AP/Wide World Photos.



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