Update #1 from Argentina: Getting to know my research subject

It’s been more difficult than expected to get the ball rolling on my research here in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Of course, it’s to be expected that sometimes sources may not be available, or individuals or groups may not be willing to collaborate, or the language barrier may cause some difficulties. None of those issues surprised me; what really surprised me was how much being in Argentina changed my perspective of my research subject, and inspired me to dive deeper into their story.

Obviously, actually coming to the country I’ve been fascinated with for months has been amazing. Seeing my research subject— las Madres de Plaza de Mayo— in person is such an inspiring and powerful experience. I had originally planned to research the Madres’ work with international presence in human rights law and activism. However, being here made me realize that international outreach isn’t a major focus of the Madres, and in fact is only a small fraction of their lucha (fight) today. The Madres’ rhetoric today draws heavily from Peronist ideals, is extremely anti-imperialistic and, interestingly, is focused just as much on economic justice as the recuperation of the Madres’ disappeared children. Although these women all mobilize for and because of their motherhood, and all claim that they were never political before their children’s disappearances, today they are one of the strongest political forces in Argentina and a strong voice of the left, in terms of human rights and economics alike.

How did the Madres become so radicalized? What drove them to mobilize not only for memory and justice for their disappeared children, but also against neoliberalism, imperialism and capitalism itself? This question offers a rich opportunity to truly dive into the contemporary history of Argentina and the experience of human rights defenders there. By considering the place and purpose of the Madres’ economic justice initiatives, I can analyze more richly this particular history and politics of human rights in Argentina. What’s more, this will provide a look into the struggle between neoliberal economic policies, human rights and motherist activism, with a splash of populist Peronism to bat.

So, now that I’ve gotten to know the Madres better and clarified further my purpose, I’m heading to the newspaper archives at the Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno in Buenos Aires to look for firsthand reporting of the Madres’ first marches. Then, I’ll head to the archives of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police Force to search for evidence of repression against the Madres and their children. Stay tuned.


  1. darrienspitz says:

    Your research sounds incredibly fascinating. International relations with Latin America interests me strongly as well, and if you haven’t read Hopes and Prospects by Noam Chomsky yet, I highly recommend this novel for you.

    I love how you’ve documented your experience. It’s interesting that las Madres’ goals are much different than what they appear to be on the surface. I hope you learn more from their lucha, and perhaps join their fight yourself! I look forward to hearing more about the injustices committed, and how las Madres plan to fight back.