Fortunate to be a Kiwi

21:22, Jan 13 2013

It's already been said before but travelling really does make you appreciate home.

I found myself standing in the sun for the weekly protest by the Madres de Plaza de Mayo.

If that doesn't sound familiar, then chances are the Mothers of the Disappeared will.

People all over the world have heard of the Mothers, and rightly so, because their story is incredibly heartbreaking and gut-wrenching and painful.

Argentina is a beautiful country, with amazing sights and food and parties and people, but it also has an extremely volatile political history, a fact the Mothers know all too well.

The original 14 founders were the mothers of people who simply vanished under the military government in the 1970s.


After the Peron government was ousted in a military coup, the new  Argentinian government not only banned people from speaking the names of Juan Peron and his wife, Evita, it also went after the former government's supporters and anybody they believed had Left-leaning tendencies during what is known as the Dirty War.

The numbers differ depending on who you talk to, but hundreds of people disappeared into thin air. Some, literally.

Many were believed to have been killed during the infamous death flights, when they were drugged and pushed from planes above the rivers running throughout Argentina.

The women who began to meet each Thursday in the Plaza de Mayo, right outside the presidential offices at the Casa Rosada as a call for justice, faced persecution themselves.

The founder was murdered.

It was illegal for groups of more than two people to meet, so the Mothers walked around the square in pairs, in a silent but plaintive plea to know what happened to their lost sons and daughters.

Men and women who were killed by their own people.

Eventually the group grew to more than 200, recognisable by their white head scarfs, and on the day I stood and watched their processional there were two factions of the group who for some reason refused to walk together - differences in ideology, apparently - joined by relatives and members of local trade unions and, strangely, a group of what could loosely be coined hippies playing the qlpan pipes.

Some sang and chanted, others were silent and stooped.

It was the sight of one particularly frail little woman, slightly hunched as she circled around one of the square's statues, who really stood out to me.

Life has its difficulties for everybody, but for some people the burdens are so much heavier, and also unfair.

In some ways the point of the weekly protest has evolved over the years, with some of the Mothers now morphed into a political activism group for a variety of social causes, but in others it hasn't.

While it's not exactly a new concept any more, democracy is still a relatively recent addition to Argentina, mere decades old.

The military dictatorship was far from the only oppressive government that the country has endured.

A new political group also meets in the Plaza.

Known as the Grandmothers, they meet to call for action for children who were stolen from their captive, pregnant mothers and given up for adoption without the women's consent.

Their mothers were then killed, too.

Work is being carried out to find these children - now only slightly older than me - and DNA testing has found more than 100 of them.

Meanwhile, during our time in Buenos Aires, the trial of more than a dozen people accused of being involved the disappearance of a young woman named Marita, who is believed to have been forced into a prostitution ring, wrapped up.

All were acquitted.

No political system is without its faults, New Zealand's included.

But standing there, watching the Mothers walk around a large white statue emblazoned with ''Justicia por Marita'' in graffiti, made me realise - again - how fortunate I am to have been born where I was.

Political parties and their members in New Zealand never please everyone, and they never will. But at least we are secure in the knowledge that our voices, if we make them loud enough, will count for something.

And our lives won't be at risk when we speak up.

Follow me on Twitter: alanadixon88