Hebe de Bonafini He had been searching for several months without fruit when he arrived at first time to Plaza de Mayo. After a long trip from La Plata, he met a plump and active lady there who explained how to continue. She had been the one behind the idea that women who had disappeared sons and daughters should go to the Plaza de Mayo –the epicenter of political power in Argentina– to make her claim visible. In December 1977, a mob from the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) kidnapped lily villaflor and another two of the Mothers. Those who remained had to face their own fears and the terror of their families that something similar could happen to them. “It was very difficult, but we never thought of leaving”Hebe said at the end of September in the Plaza de Mayo. The president of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Association passed away on Sunday at the age of 93. His ashes were scattered in the place he traveled every Thursday. The same place where Azucena’s ashes rest after his remains were found. That place where the Mothers continue to demand Truth and Justice.
On November 30, 1976, a mob took one of Azucena’s sons, Néstor De Vincenti, and his partner, Raquel Mangin. From that day on, Azucena went out into the street. On April 30, 1977, due to her initiative, she and other Mothers arrived at Plaza de Mayo to demand from there the appearance alive of her loved ones.
By then, Hebe had been searching for news of Jorge, her eldest son, who had been kidnapped on February 8, 1977, for several months. A woman who was also looking told her about the meetings in Plaza de Mayo. She arrived with her fears on her back, but she did so particularly after Raúl, her youngest son, encouraged her to organize with other people who were in the same situation.
By the end of 1977, the Madres began working on a petition to claim “only the truth.” They collected signatures and collected pesito after pesito to be able to pay for the ad in the newspaper The nation. On December 8, 1977, the ESMA task force kidnapped two of the Mothers –María Eugenia Ponce de Bianco and Esther Ballestrino de Careaga– from the Church of the Holy Cross along with other militants who supported them.
Hebe found out about the abductions a day later when she arrived at a house where they were meeting. She was dejected by her own tragedy. On December 6, 1977, they had taken Raúl. According to Hebe’s own account, she said that she had to put aside the request and go out to look for the Mothers. Azucena replied that she had to move on.
That day, a group of Mothers went to the newspaper The nation and it avoided all the “buts” that the employees found for not accepting the text. When saying goodbye to her, Azucena gave Hebe a poem by Mario Benedetti. “Comrade, you know you can count on me / Not up to two or up to ten, but count on me,” Hebe read before setting out on the road to La Plata. He did not imagine that this would be the last time they would see their companion from the Plaza de Mayo.
Azucena went to her house in Avellaneda. That night of December 9, 1977, her 16-year-old daughter Cecilia alternated between Alberto Migre’s novel and contemplating the worried face of her mother.
– What’s wrong, mom? You have teary eyes, you go to the window –Cecilia told her.
“They took some Mothers and I don’t know how to tell your dad,” Azucena blurted out.
“Rest now and tomorrow when you do some mates, tell him,” the girl suggested.
Azucena’s husband left that morning without finding out about the Santa Cruz kidnappings. Azucena went out into the street to buy the newspaper and did not return. They put her in a Falcon and took her to ESMA. There, they heard her ask about the blond boy who used to accompany them in Plaza de Mayo. The little boy they called Gustavo Niño was, in reality, alfredo astiz. Judas –according to the journalist Uki Goñi–.
On December 14, 1977, the entire group of the Holy Cross was “transferred” in the midst of a great uproar because the ESMA mob had kidnapped not only the Madres but also two French nuns, Alice Domon and Leonie Duquet. The twelve from Santa Cruz were drugged and put on an Argentine Navy plane. Then they threw them into the sea.
Much later it was learned that their bodies returned. The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) was initially able to identify Ángela Auad, a militant who went to the church on Estados Unidos Street, through her fingerprints. Between December 2004 and January 2005, the members of the EAAF went to the General Lavalle cemetery to excavate. In July 2005, chambermaid Horacio Cattani reported that those efforts had served to identify Azucena, Esther and Mary.
When the remains appeared, the daughters had the need to tell the Mothers. With the Founder Line, there were no worries. With Hebe and the Mothers of the Association, they thought that the process could be more tense because they were opposed to the exhumations. Hebe was not there when they arrived at the Casa de Madres, so it was Ana Careaga – Esther’s daughter – who called her to tell her. “It was sweet,” recalls Mabel Careaga, Esther’s other daughter. She “She told us: ‘You have our support. I hug them. I am with you,’” she recounts.
The remains of Esther and Mary were buried in the memory site in the Church of the Holy Cross, the last place they set foot while they were searching for all their sons and daughters.
Cecilia decided that her mother’s ashes should be buried with her father –in the private sphere– and in the Plaza de Mayo –in the public sphere–. This was the case in December 2005, the 28th anniversary of the kidnappings of the Santa Cruz group. “It was what represented her. For her it was a symbol to say ‘let’s go to the Plaza de Mayo’”reviews her decision Cecilia, in dialogue with Page 12.
Other Mothers also wanted to stay forever in the Plaza. Last August, she passed away Camarotti Rose –member of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Association–. Her ashes were scattered there, they say. Hebe had made the same decision. Not leaving the Plaza, that place that initially meant the meeting with the children –as he told the journalist Luis Zarranz–.
In the Pyramid that they surrounded so many times, he will also meet the first Mother again, with the first face he saw that day he arrived from La Plata to the Capital –a place to which he had not been more than two or three times before Jorge disappeared, as the journalist Ulises Gorini recounts–. Azucena was not only the outstretched hand but also the reason to continue –despite the terror they knew as a macabre possibility–. “Beyond the different deaths, the fight brings them together again in the Plaza”, says Cecilia De Vincenti. “That is highly symbolic.”