Identity. Family. Freedom. This child’s drawing welcomes visitors to the Casa de la Identidad, the space devoted to the amazing work the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Disappeared) have been doing throughout the past 40 years since the “Golpe Militar” to return babies disappeared during the dirty war years 1976-83 to their families of origin. At its start in 1977 the (then) Mothers took to the Plaza de Mayo where they marched in silence in front of the government house the Casa Rosada (Pink House).
Even today, forty years later, a core group of the Abuelas still march around the Plaza every Thursday afternoon at 3:30pm. They vow to continue their search until every one of these children are returned to their original identities, their original families. To date 119 children have recovered their true identities.
Room after room is dedicated to this important work the grandmothers have done. Some rooms display photos of families whose infants were stolen from their mothers shortly after birth and given away to the military and its friends.
Their birth mothers remain disappeared, likely victims of the “vuelos de la muerto” (death flights) where they were drugged, made to undress, and thrown from airplanes into the Rio de la Plata or the sea.
Other rooms highlight the various cultural work that goes on to help these children to uncover their true identities. Groups like the Identity Theatre present their work and contribute to the grandmothers’ searching. Popular musical artists give benefits to thank the Grandmothers for their hard work, and professional sports teams and individual athletes have spoken on their behalf. Their focus: find the children!
In the final room of the Casa de la Identidad I discovered a large, 12-panel comic strip directed at young children who may visit this place. The first panel has a small boy asking “Who are the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo?” and the answer appears alongside it.
In the final drawing in the series the same child asks “Have they found them all?” Again, the answer appears alongside: The Grandmothers have found more than 100 children (a sign at the entryway indicates 119 children have recovered their identities, thanks to the Grandmothers’ efforts.) But the search for all of the children continues on.
Two graphic posters in particular struck me as very powerful and engaging. In one the viewer is asked: “Do you know who you are?” In the other, those who suspect they might be a child of one of those disappeared is advised to contact the Grandmothers for help. Answering this question is easier now, thanks to the work of the Grandmothers and the Casa de la Identidad.