Though a natural born U.S. citizen, I lived in Argentina and feel a deep connection to it still based on my experiences there. As a result, I keep up on news in the area. On Friday, May 25, 2001, there was a brutal attack on the daughter of the President of Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Las Madres began during Argentina's military occupation in response to the disappearances of 20-30 thousand people between 1976-1983. The military dictatorship, not even two decades past, is still an open wound for most Argentines. Though still trying to find information on people who disappeared during that era, La Madres are also involved in other social activism.
While Hebe de Bonafina, the president, was in Brazil her daughter, Alejandra, was tortured and almost killed in true style of the old dictatorship. Two men entered the house under the pretense of being telephone servicemen. Alejandra let them in as they had called a couple days earlier for a repair. They proceeded to beat her in the stomach and along the back, using fists and chain. They had covered her face and taped her hands behind her back. As if that was not sufficient, they burned her repeatedly with cigarettes on the arms and back to the point of unconciousness. When she started to pass out from the pain and terror, they began hitting her again and yelling obscenities. All the while, the radio had been turned up to drown out the noise and the attackers were drinking and splashing whiskey. At one point, they had ripped Alejandra's jeans with intent to rape her, but stopped. Finally, after a few hours of torture and dragging Alejandra about the house, they put a plastic bag over her head to asphyxiate her. They left her barely alive.
This kind of activity against Las Madres and others is nothing strange or, unfortunately, out of the ordinary. While everyone knows about the Nazi death camps and the atrocities surrounding them, almost no one hears about the atrocities still being committed in countries like Argentina. They seem to be somewhere in the middle. Not destitute enough to warrant a cause, and not rich or infamous enough to attract attention. Six students were taken from their homes on September 16, 1976 and kept in torture until the only survivor escaped in 1980. All for participating in a protest to institute a student bus pass. Pregnant women were taken and kept until their baby was born. The child was often adopted by military officials and the mother was pushed out of a plane. One such military officer remembers an 'ugly' woman being pushed before her 'ugly' baby could be born to the world.
The moral of this story, never give up the fight. Always aim for self-actualization over authoritarianism, but remember that we are actually leading priveleged lives. No matter how well versed we are and how active we are, we have the benefit of not having lived through many things as horrible as that. Educate yourself about the atrocities other countries perpetuate on its citizens even today and share with others. Take strength from the idea that there are people in other countries protesting and struggling in the face of more than a riot squad with rubber bullets. Don't let it demean your own struggle, but carry the memory of these people in your heart. And always remember that no matter how individualistic you are, you never stand alone.
Educate to Erradicate...Refuse, Resist, Revolt!
For more on Las Madres visit http://www.madres.org
It is in Spanish, but if you run a search on www.google.com for Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, it may find a page it can translate.