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The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo:

A United Methodist Women Devotional

"We make the road by walking." - Antonio Machado

Scripture: Luke 23: 27-28

Jesus told the daughters of Jerusalem who wept for him along his painful journey to the cross, not to weep for him but to weep for themselves and their children. They would have to bear the burden of bereavement and tragedy, attacks and injustices. Christ still journeys toward the cross whenever state crimes ensue. Mothers still cry out in mourning when their children are executed.

In Argentina, between 1976 and 1983, a military dictatorship ruled the country. Fear ruled. Eighty four journalists disappeared. Human rights were violated. Many people who worked for the betterment of the country disappeared. Many children continued to disappear. Along with them, their relatives also began disappearing. Friends and relatives of the missing went and knocked at the doors of government offices and police stations. There was no reasonable explanation. Trust faded. Families distrusted each other. The fragile social fabric of Argentina began collapsing.

About a dozen mothers gathered in the Plaza de Mayo (May Square) on April 30, 1977. Wearing white scarves on their heads, they protested against the military dictatorship demanding to know why so many of their relatives disappeared. The government immediately prohibited them from gathering in the Plaza, so they decided to walk in threes and fours through the Plaza.

Azucena Villaflor was one of the mothers who stood there pleading for her "disappeared" children. She too disappeared after awhile. The dictatorship tightened its grip, but it was on the losing side against a long drawn-out struggle for human rights and freedom. Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo soon greyed and called themselves Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. They sewed the names of their disappeared children and relatives on their scarves, and stood up for justice.

Democracy finally arrived in Argentina. The leader of the newly installed government, Raul Alfonsin, was a major force in creating the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP). Carlos Gattinoni, a Methodist Bishop, was one among the ten members of this Commission. He had stood on behalf of the oppressed people throughout the rule of dictatorship in his country.

This Commission investigated human rights violations and brought the dictators to legal prosecution and imprisonment.


  1. What gave strength to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo to stand against dictatorship and terrorism?
  2. What are some of the "womanly" ways in which women have stood against state-sponsored terrorism?


God of the disappeared and all those bereft of loved ones, we give thanks for each day of simple treasures from those whom we love. It is the shared laughter over coffee, the hug before going to school, the setting sunlight on a loved one’s face that make life full of grace. We pray for the humanity of those who have so numbed themselves as to perpetrate such grave crimes. We pray for the sensitivity to cry out when such atrocities occur-wherever they occur, and to whomever–by your grace and through your prayer. Amen.

See Also...
Topic: Advent Human rights Prayers Women
Geographic Region: Argentina
Source: United Methodist Women

arrow icon. View Listing of Missionaries Currently Working in: Argentina   

Date posted: Dec 01, 2001