Anyone who has spent any time in South America will know that the heart of every village, town or city is its plaza. A plaza can be anything from a tiny grassy meeting place in the rural hinterland to an elaborate marble expression of nationhood, but it is always a place where people come together.
The Plaza de Mayo is surrounded by several of Argentina's most important buildings: notably the Cabildo (the old colonial HQ), the Casa Rosada (the 'Pink House' which is the official presidential residence) and the city's main cathedral. The plaza itself is decorated by the Piramide de Mayo (built in 1811 to commemorate the May Revolution a year earlier) and a grand statue of independence hero General Belgrano as well as towering palm trees and soothing fountains.
These days it usually has a relaxed and convivial atmosphere, but over the years it's played host to some very important events in Argentina's history. The 1945 protests which ultimately led to Peron being released from prison; Evita's famous addresses to her descamisados or 'shirtless ones' from the balcony of the Casa Rosada; the 1955 bombing by the Argentine Air Force which killed more than 300 people; and the exuberant celebrations after Argentina's invasion of the Islas Malvinas which so enraged Margaret Thatcher and resulted in the Falklands War.
For nearly four decades the plaza has been synonymous with the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of mothers whose children were 'disappeared' by the various military juntas during the so-called Dirty War in the 70s and 80s. The Madres first protested at the plaza on 30 April 1977 and they still gather every Thursday afternoon. If you can't make it on a Thursday be sure to look out for the white shawls (the icon of the Madres) painted around the base of the piramide.
In 2006 the Madres declared that the 'Casa Rosada was no longer the enemy' but they vowed to continue their fight against social injustice. The grandmothers or Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo are very active in locating children who were disappeared (their grandchildren). Which reminds me...The Madres and Abuelas really deserve a blog of their own, so watch this space.
Credit to LW Yang for the title image of this blog.