Special to The Herald
BUENOS AIRES -- Nov. 9, 1976, was the last day Juana de Pargament
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
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,
have found a new outlet for their struggle against repression.
Earlier this year, the association opened a trendy cafe in downtown
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
``Che, for us, is an example of a true revolutionary,'' says de
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
``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
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
``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.''
THE STRUGGLE GOES ON
With the help of computer-savvy sympathizers, the madres have
struggle into cyberspace, where they have their own Web site, www.madres.org
De Pargament, who despite her age works at the association's little
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
``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
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