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Who was Hebe de Bonafini, the housewife who fought for “all” those disappeared by the Argentine dictatorship

A woman of humble origins, an indefatigable social fighter and especially controversial in her statements: that’s how it was Hebe de Bonafini (1928-2022)a personality whose legacy as head of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo occupies a central place in the recent history of Argentina.

During her more than four decades of activism, the revolutionary housewife, who passed away this Sunday with a few days to go before turning 94 years old, not only put the last civic-military dictatorship (1976-1983) of the South American country against the ropesbut ended up becoming a global benchmark in the fight for human rights.

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And it is not for less: along with hundreds of other mothers and grandmothers, Hebe de Bonafini was the visible face of the demonstrations to find the disappeared during the self-styled “national reorganization process”, some 30,000 people including political and social militants, trade unionists, students and artists, according to estimates by human rights organizations.

His work did not end with the end of the dictatorship and lasted through years of strong social commitment, a time that was not exempt from controversy surrounding his figure.


Born on December 4, 1928 in La Plata, capital of the province of Buenos Aires, Hebe María Pastor had to work from a very young age to get aheadlike her first and only boyfriend, Humberto “Toto” Bonafini, whom she married on November 9, 1949.

As a result of this bond, their first sons were born: Jorge Omar (1950) and Raúl Alfredo (1953), who years later were joined by María Alejandra (1965).

Unlike their parents, Jorge and Raúl, they were able to study at the university and participated in the student movement, placing themselves in the crosshairs of the civil-military authorities with the arrival of the dictatorship.


On February 8, 1977, policemen dressed in cicil raided Jorge’s home and took him away.. On December 6 the same thing happened with Raulas with Jorge’s wife, Maria Elenaon May 25 of the following year. The three disappeared.

A normal and ordinary mother until that moment, Hebe then began to travel the 50 kilometers that separate La Plata from the Argentine capital every day in search of answers.

She wasn’t the only one in that situation. overwhelmed by despair, Hundreds of mothers and grandmothers went to Buenos Aires daily to try to find their children and grandchildren, reason that led 14 of them to carry out, on Saturday, April 30, 1977, the first march in front of the Casa Rosada in repudiation of the Government.

This custom led to the creation of the Association of Mothers of Plaza de Mayoan entity chaired by Hebe since its birth and that during those years gained enormous international relevance, despite suffering all kinds of persecution by the dictatorship.

With the advent of democracy, the association was divided into two: on the one hand, Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Founding Line, that has Taty Almeida as its main referent, and on the other the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Associationmore recognized outside Argentinaleadered by Hebe de Bonafini.


Hebe also publicly stood out for his more than controversial opinions, the product of a strong personality and the inability to measure his words.

His most scandalous outburst was in 2001, after the attacks of September 11 in the United States, stating that he felt “joy” for what happened and that it did not hurt him “at all”.

That “anti-imperialist” mood translated into strong support for characters such as Che Guevara, Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez.

In the case of Argentine politics, Hebe de Bonafini harshly attacked “neoliberal” presidents: In 1991, he described Carlos Menem (1989-1999) as “garbage”, an outburst that earned him a case for “contempt”, while Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) was labeled on various occasions as “foolish, cynical and a liar”. .

During Macri’s presidency, the activist was in the crosshairs of Justice for corruption, even bordering on arrest for refusing to appear before the judge.

Some criticism that also reached the current president, Alberto Fernández, whom he asked on August 26 to “speak as little as possible.”


Despite all these controversies, the legacy of Hebe de Bonafini at the helm of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo is immeasurable: Today the association has its own university institute, a radio station and the administration of a cultural center where the clandestine detention center of the Navy Mechanical School (ESMA) was located.

Awarded dozens of awards around the world, Hebe de Bonafini was always very clear about how she wanted to be remembered after her death: as a mother who fought “not only for her children, but for all of them.”

Source: Elcomercio

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