Hebe de Bonafini, President of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, shown at left with her traditional white kerchief, can be seen more often today with a construction helmet. The Madres de Plaza de Mayo are best known for their demonstrations, begun 30 years ago, calling for justice for those who lost their children during Argentina’s “dirty war.” Today, there are only about 20 of the original Madres left, aged between 76 and 94 and, as the group has evolved, so too have its activities. The weekly Thursday demonstrations have been supplemented by the founding of a people’s university, a newspaper, radio, and their own publishing house. And now, the Madres are in the construction business: with support from President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, they have begun a vast programming to urbanize about 10 of Buenos Aires’ slums. One of the largest slums, Ciudad Oculta (hidden city) will gain 900 residences. The “White Elephant,” a structure built in 1950 to become Argentina’s most modern hospital and abandoned 50 years ago will rehabilitated to house apartments, schools, daycare centers, a hospital, a library and a recreation center. Bonafini sees these “public works” as a continuation of the struggle for which so many people died:
The Madres’ job is no longer to resist. Our children died for an ideal, we continue their battle against social injustice.According to Bonafini’s right-hand man, Sergio Schoklender, most slum residents have never worked and 80% claim to live off garbage. By training and employing them to do the urbanization work themselves,
the Madres’ are implementing a global approach to social reality that will enable [them] to eliminate all at once delinquency, drugs and prostitution.It will, in any case, be a start, and one that hasn’t gone unnoticed by President Fernández de Kirchner, who has asked that the project be extended to other provinces.