Between Civilization & Barbarism: Women, Nation, and Literary Culture in Modern Argentina

By Francine Masiello | Go to book overview

Introduction

They cut off my voice
So I grew two voices
In two different tongues
My songs I pour. --
ALICIA PARTNOY,
"Song of the Exiled"

This book owes its inspiration to the dramatic example of the Argentine Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Gathering each Thursday afternoon in the huge central plaza of Buenos Aires -- a plaza surrounded by nineteenth- century buildings, the national cathedral, and the presidential palace -- these women traverse the realm of the monumental to challenge the administration in power. Encircling the square, the mothers provided both a visual and a symbolic mode of resistance to a regime that "disappeared" over 15,000 citizens between 1976 and 1983; they entered the space of the plaza at a time when ordinary citizens feared to assemble in public. Their continued protest against subsequent administrations in the years following military rule attests to the ability of these women to sustain a public discussion extending far beyond the conventional limits of partisan politics or ideologies. Perhaps because of their amorphous constituency -- allied neither with the major political parties nor with the announced successes of democracy -- the madres continue to be regarded, alternately, with admiration and suspicion. Called the "Madwomen of the Plaza" during the period of military control, they are regarded as misfits even today, well into the country's second phase of redemocratization.

The compelling presence of the madres informs my meditations about

-1-

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