Azucena Villaflor, founder of the association of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, is one of the six figures chosen last December to be honoured on the next European Day of the Righteous, a celebration to commemorate those who have stood up against crimes and totalitarism with their own moral responsibility.
The new year will remember the moral and civil resistance of six women who risked their lives to unmask torturers and murderers, to demand equality and respect, decent life conditions, freedom and democracy.
“(…) We care a lot about the subject of the moral and civil resistance of women to defend their dignity,” said Gabriele Nissim, Chairman of the Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide Committee.
“Their struggle, carried out all over the world, involves us all, because it embraces the defense of the fundamental rights of every human being. This is why we deemed it important to hold the celebrations of next European Day of the Righteous on the same symbolic date of International Women’s Day – 8 March.”
Abducted and disappeared
Almost 40 years from her death, Azucena Villaflor is going to be honored for her commitment to the truth, her sacrifice, and her tireless defense of human dignity.
Villaflor was born in 1924. She met her husband, Pedro De Vicenti, while working as a telephone secretary in a home appliances company, and they had four children. When the military dictatorship took power in 1976, Villaflor and her family were living outside Buenos Aires.
A few months after the beginning of the dictatorship one of Villaflor’s sons, Nèstor, was abducted by the National Reorganisation Process.
An estimate 30,000 people “disappeared” in Argentina between 1976 and 1983. The aim of the dictatorship was to terrorise the population, induce silence and obedience. The prisoners were taken to concentration camps where they were tortured with electric shocks, boiling oil, and blows. The bodies were disposed and their whereabouts never revealed.
“Ordered to ‘circulate'”
Yet, Azucena Villaflor could not be silenced. After her son disappeared, Villaflor started searching for him through the Ministry of Interior. During her search she met other women who were looking for missing relatives and after months of fruitless inquiry, she decided to start a series of demonstrations.
On the April 30 1977, Villaflor and 13 other mothers went to the Plaza de Mayo in central Buenos Aires and marched around the square asking the government to disclose the truth about the desaparecidos. The Plaza de Mayo, right in front of the Casa Rosada government palace, was chosen by Villaflor and the other mothers for its political importance in the history of Argentina.
Since the police had ordered them to “circulate”, the mothers decided to march around the Plaza. After the first demonstration, every Thursday at about 3.30 p.m. Villaflor and the other women met and marched in the Plaza de Mayo, a schedule that is still kept today.
In the long run, her work and commitment put Villaflor on the spotlight. She soon became thorny for the Argentinian government and on the 10th of December Villarflor was abducted by armed force from her home in Villa Dominico.
She was detained and killed in the concentration camp of the Navy Mechanics School and her body could only be identified in 2005 by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team. The remains were returned to her family and she was buried at the foot of the May Pyramid in the centre of the Plaza de Mayo, where she fought until the end for the truth to be disclosed.