The Miami Herald
October 4, 1999
Keeping the memories alive
Argentine mothers continue their revolutionary struggle

 Special to The Herald

 BUENOS AIRES -- Nov. 9, 1976, was the last day Juana de Pargament saw her
 son Alberto Jose. Sometime that night, soldiers kidnapped the 31-year-old doctor
 and dragged him away, leaving behind his pregnant wife, who later fled the

 Six years ago, a 17-year-old boy walked into the office of the Asociacion Madres
 de Plaza de Mayo, looking to buy a book.

 ``I immediately recognized him as my grandson, Javier,'' said the woman, who
 had kept the boy's photo on her desk all those years but had never actually met
 him. ``Javier now lives with his other grandmother. He studies and works. I see
 him very often.''

 De Pargament, 85, tells her emotional story without tears, having told it many
 times before. As treasurer of the association, she's one of thousands of mothers
 who, during the late 1970s and early 80s, helped catapult the fate of Argentina's
 30,000 desaparecidos into the world's consciousness with their weekly protests
 around the Plaza de Mayo.

 These days, with their numbers diminished by age and exhaustion, the madres
 have found a new outlet for their struggle against repression.

 Earlier this year, the association opened a trendy cafe in downtown Buenos
 Aires. The Cafe Literario Osvaldo Bayer along Avenida Hipolito Yrigoyen is
 crammed with thousands of books and periodicals ranging from works by Leon
 Trotsky, Maxim Gorky and Che Guevarra to the latest issue of Cuba's communist
 newspaper, Granma.

 ``Che, for us, is an example of a true revolutionary,'' says de Pargament, while
 Bayer, a Marxist historian and author, ``is one of our best friends, an anarchist
 and a free thinker.''

 Not surprisingly, the walls of the little restaurant are cluttered with Che posters,
 while the background music consists of protest songs like Imagine, Give Peace a
 Chance and We Shall Overcome.


 The cafe -- which occupies the first floor of a building owned by the mothers'
 association -- was the brainchild of six activists who not only decorated the place
 but take turns preparing coffee, pastries and light snacks, all of which are served
 on little ceramic saucers emblazoned with the association's logo, a woman
 wearing a white scarf. For $1, visitors can get either a cup of coffee or an
 attractive propaganda poster that urges young people to continue the ``Struggle
 and Resistance Against Impunity and Unemployment.''

 ``This cafe is a way of vindicating his memory,'' said Elsa de Manzotti, an elderly
 woman who, like de Pargament, lost her son during the 1976-83 dictatorship.

 For the association's president, Hebe de Bonafini, the new cafe represents a
 long-awaited dream.

 ``This is the first step towards having our own cultural center, which will have a
 library, discotheque, debate hall, printing press and radio station,'' she told the
 Argentine newspaper Clarin. ``We must achieve this by our 25th anniversary [in
 2002]. I don't want to die without seeing this come true.''

 In fact, since its inauguration in April, the Cafe Literario has hosted numerous
 poetry readings, political debates and theatrical productions. In so doing, it has
 also helped raise money for the 2,000-member association, which for a while was
 struggling financially.

 ``In the beginning, nobody wanted to lend us a place where we could serve the
 public, because we were the mothers of subversive young people,'' de Pargament
 recalled. ``But now we're getting help from Canada, Italy, Spain and Holland.''


 With the help of computer-savvy sympathizers, the madres have taken their
 struggle into cyberspace, where they have their own Web site,

 De Pargament, who despite her age works at the association's little office every
 day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., says the weekly protest marches around the Plaza
 de Mayo still continue 22 years after they began, although only 15 or 20 mothers
 now participate.

 ``We're still marching every Thursday at 3:30 p.m., and at 4 p.m. we have a
 discussion. It doesn't matter to me if it's too hot, too cold or raining,'' says de

 Nevertheless, she adds, ``many mothers have died, and others have no money to
 travel to the Plaza de Mayo. They live far from the center of Buenos Aires. Many
 have said, `I will never recover my boy or girl, so I'm not going to march any more.'
 But now we're marching with many young people and friends who understand the
 meaning of our struggle. When we walk in the street, everybody comes and
 kisses us, while the murderers remain in their comfortable houses.''

 Asked whether it's time to forgive those responsible for the atrocities of 1976-83,
 she responds with a defiant ``no.''

 ``We will never forgive, and we will never forget,'' she says. ``We don't want the
 children of the next generation to inherit these problems. We want them to know
 what happened during those years.''

                     Copyright 1999 Miami Herald