A Woman to Know: Azucena Villaflor

All mothers for all and they are all our children. — Azucena Villaflor

All mothers for all and they are all our children. — Azucena Villaflor

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

On November 30, 1976, Azucena’s son and his girlfriend disappeared from his home in Buenos Aires.

Earlier that year, when the Argentinian military dictatorship took power, officials began forcibly “disappearing” — kidnapping, torturing, murdering, hiding bodies from discovery and denying any existence of the crime — thousands of people like Néstor, Azucena’s son. These forced disappearances continued for nearly a decade, terrorizing Argentinians and creating an entire class of “desaparecidos” that continues to haunt families to this day.

Azucena began looking for Néstor, first going through the official channels. For six months, she sought help from the Ministry of Interior and military leaders. She met resistance at every step of the way.

But she also met other mothers searching for their disappeared loved ones. On April 30, 1977, Azucena organized these women in a series of public demonstrations. The group called themselves “The Mother of the Plaza de Mayo” and began regular protests at Buenos Aires government buildings. Their work brought international attention to the cause and ultimately led to the creation of the United Nations’ Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Today, the group has condemned disappearance internationally and fought to recover the bodies of those killed and vanished.

On December 10, 1977, the Mothers took out a full-page newspaper ad, listing the names of their disappeared loved ones, including Azucena’s Néstor.

That very night, Azucena vanished from her home. Five other mothers from her group were disappeared that same year.

In 2003, a group of Argentinian scientists exhumed her remains and had the ashes interred in Buenos Aires, in a public monument at one of the places central to Azucena’s life and activism: in the middle of the Plaza de Mayo.

“Here at the Plaza is where my mother was born to public life and here she must stay forever,” said Azucena’s daughter, Cecilia de Vicenti. “She must stay for everyone.”

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