A few weeks back, Colin posted on one of the Madres, Zaida Franz, celebrating the identification of the remains of her disappeared daughter. It does not surprise us that this Mother would feel a sense of closure and relief at this discovery.

But after the military Junta fell in 1983, the Madres seriously debated whether or not to accept their disappeared children’s remains from the government. After a number of very contentious debates, the human rights group decided to oppose the unearthing of remains of the disappeared. Opposition stemmed from the fact that the government was simply handing out random skeletal remains to the Mother to silence them and “close the wounds” of the military’s reign. One mother reported that in 1984 she received a box from the government containing a partial human skeleton. An accompanying letter explained:

Dear Madam,
In response to your incessant search for your daughter Patricia, we have decided to send you part of her remains which should satisfy your anxiety to be reunited with your dear daughter…. This decisions was taken after an examination of her conduct as a member of a camp of armed guerrillas. In case you were unaware of them, we are listing the crimes that she committed with her husband Carlos Francesco:
-Betrayal of her country
-Concealing the activities of the enemy
-Collaborating actively with the Montonero assassins
For these reasons she was condemned to death. May God have mercy on her soul.

The Madre who received the package later verified that the remains belonged to a middle-aged male, not her youthful Patricia. Besides the attempts to close the door on the disappeared, the Mothers advocated keeping their children alive and bringing the military leaders to justice.

Since the 80s the process of finding the disappeared has become much more transparent and accurate, especially with the use of DNA testing. Still, the issue of bones has a long and painful history.

About Shawn

ABD Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of New Mexico. I study Early Latin America and am currently working on a dissertation on racial relations, the many iterations of encomienda, and frontier societies in the Rio de la Plata during the 16th and 17th centuries.
This entry was posted in Argentina, Argentina's Military Dictatorship (1976-1983), The "Disappeared". Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bones

  1. That’s a really good point about the problems of returning remains in the 1980s and the (limited, but still useful) changes in technology since then. I hadn’t heard that story of the false remains returned, either; yet another reminder of the ways the military regime abused its authority and completely disregarded the sentiments of people it viewed as “enemies.”

    And while I’ve seen works out there that looked at the commemoration of the dead and/or the role of bodies in military regimes and rememberances, it would be interesting to see an historical analysis of the way bones fit within broader struggles, like you allude to here. Fascinating (if depressing) stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Shawn says:

    I am not up to date on what the Madres say about remains today, but in the 80s, in the midst of the debate over the “full stop law”, they were officially vehemently opposed to it.

  3. Right – I’m sure the context has changed not just as the full stop law has faded away, but in the context of the last 10 years of presidents (the Kirchners) who were friendly to the Madres’ platform and to human rights more generally. I actually have some material on the Madres on my summer reading list, so maybe I’ll have more on this later this summer.

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