Les àvies (the grandmas)
Barbara Freeman/Getty Images, 1976.
I had the chance to meet my two grandmothers –and one is still in the mood for cooking “tortilla de patatas” (Spanish food) for the whole family and lavish delicious food on every grandchild whenever we visited her. However, it seems that in our society, at least in the European/western that is where I grew up, old people become unproductive –also as a consequence of capitalism mentality- and is not taken in consideration. Neither for learning from them all the knowledge got thanks to a life full of experiences.
Indeed, my grandmothers lived a war being little girls and they were telling me stories from their infancy remembrances. Black and white pictures, the first time that they saw TV or Barcelona as a city where was possible to play on the street are things that amuse me. Another thing that I learned from my grandmothers is the idea of gender discrimination and, not said in the same words, the concept of feminism.
My grandmother was a housekeeper that could be defined in the dictionary, and I guess that she was happy like that. When she was very old, being some centimeters shorter and having 803 years –as she was saying-, she had a conversation that for me was very revealing. She was having teatime with other grandmas at the hotel where she used to spend summers. This group of women started explaining what they did during life. One created a classic dance academy –my grandmother dreamed in being a ballerina but she gave up at the age of four because she didn’t want to show underwear while dancing; the other worked hard to conserve books in Catalan and promote the language.
At that moment my grandmother realized that she dedicated her life fulltime to care about my grandpa and their children and, after a while, next generation with grandchildren. She told me that she felt happy for having had the chance to see and make us grow up but also a part of her was being quite jealous of these women. My grandmother’s society pushed her in following some rules and a specific lifestyle. However, now she suddenly found there was a space to question the traditional manners –and transfer it to me.
This article is dedicated to my grandmothers; also to all the grandmothers from the entire world that, knowing that their expression wrinkles are letting people know that they are a source of wisdom, keep fighting for a better world and to achieve justice; to Margarita Guerrero de Barrera, who is sharing name with one of my granny’s, and was one of the founders of the “Madres de Plaza de Mayo”; she kept struggling until the end of her life, while she was 93 years old. In the next lines, I will explain two grandmothers movements that from my point of view are very revelatory.
Mirada social, 2018.
Las abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo (the grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo)
Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo is a civil association focused on the human rights struggle in Argentina; their main goal is, still, to find and return to their families all the babies and children that were appropriated by the last military dictatorship (1976-1983). Consequently, they want to spread the word against this atrocity, creating a commission to prevent this crime against humanity and accomplish some punishment for all those who are responsible (Wikipedia, 2019a).
It is important to understand the context where Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo flourished. Argentina faced a dictatorship called “Proceso de Reorganización Nacional” (National Reorganization Process), that started the 24th of March from 1976 and lasted until 1983. During this period of time, there was established a methodology to do an opponents mass elimination, which has been legally considered as genocide. Over the course of this reign thousand of people were under detention and disappeared, mainly as a result of the full-scale use of “Centros Clandestinos de Detención” (Clandestine centers of detention) where torture, murder, and disappearance was taking place (Wikipedia, 2019a).
In addition to that, the children of people who were under detention – or who disappeared- where relocated becoming war booty. The tyranny forces planed down to the last detail, also written documented, a system to detain pregnant women; thus, clandestine births, identify counterfeit, and fake adoptions prompted with the goal of taking ownership of the children (Wikipedia, 2019a).
“In 1977 we began our struggle with the claim for 13 children’s restitution”, is said in the website of the Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo (Abuelas.org, n.d). “As of August 2004, over 400 children have been recorded as missing. However, we know that there are approximately 500 kidnapped children”, continue the digital discourse, to make clear which is their statement.
This association is very linked with the mothers of Plaza de Mayo (Madres de la Plaza de Mayo). Both are considered the first major society associations that start managing themselves, as a civil society movement, to fight against specific human rights violations. Moreover, it has been a non-mixed group (only formed by women) since the very beginning, consequently becoming a clear example of a sorority.
Austrian grandmothers against the extreme right
“They are 70 years old. They are characterized by their woolen hats knitted by hand and by their shouts in favor of tolerance and against racism. In just five months, they have become a symbol of the fight against the xenophobic and anti-migratory policies of the Government of Austria”, is written in Spanish in an article from Pikara magazine (Pikara, 2018); “They are the Omas Gegen Rechts: the grandmothers who fight against the rebirth of the right in the heart of Europe”, continues explaining Teresa Suárez (Pikara, 2018). They are a contemporary movement of grandmothers, as “Omas Gegen Rechts” was created in Austria in November 2017. At that moment, the far right party, represented by the FPÖ (Party for Austrian freedom), had a dramatic increase and a huge representation in the parliament together with the conservative party, led by the conservative Sebastian Kurz. Consequently, the grandmother’s movement begun with demonstrations against the government and an invitation spread through the Internet –as they use social media such as Facebook or Instagram-, to call the entire world for joining them.
Being a grandmother have some advantages; Barbara Burian-Langegger, one of the Grannies Against the Right says that they have the time and the space to get well organized and, moreover, to use their creative resources (dw.com, 2018). They can take the street loud and proud, being very critical, specifically with the refugee’s policies of FPÖ that are being imposed through media with a clear racist message. They want the best for the future, thinking in their children and grandchildren but caring of the globe.
Kobalt Productions, 2018
Message of hope: let us learn from the grandmas (and never is too late!)
“We call on you to stand up against the far-right parties and, even if you’re older, to participate in demonstrations for human rights!!”, are Omas Gegen Rechts posting (omasgegenrechts.at, n.d) on their website. Age is not an obstacle for moving towards social transformation. Shaping the future is a responsibility for all. Moreover, having the voice of the experience inside collective actions can be a huge positive impact.
Another point that I would like to mention, as a conclusion, is that even though at the first glance seems, because of some global noisy movements, that is now the moment that women –mainly young- are venturing out going to the street and demonstrating for equal rights, there are some experiences from the past to learn from. That can be clearly seen with the example of the organization Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo).
As a final note, suggest that there are some global experiences where women have put heads together and reached an impressive impact, which from my point of view have to be reminded and taken as an example. This can be the case of “Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo” and also the “Omas Gegen Rechts”. Concepts such as the sorority, according to Wiktionary “a group of girls or women associated for a common purpose”, can be learned from grandmothers –as I hope I have illustrated that along with this article.
To keep watching
Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo (in Spanish with English Subtitles):
- Abuelas.org. (n.d). History of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. Accessed 28 of April.
- Barbara Freeman/Getty Images (1 of January 1976). ERA Grandmas. Older women gather at a demonstration in support of passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, Pittsburgh PA, 1976. Three foreground women’s signs read “Grandmas for the ERA” and “Grandmas N.O.W. Accessed 6 of May.
- Desinformémonos, (16 of October 2018). Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo: 42 años en busca de justicia. Accessed 6 of May.
- Dw.com (31 of August 2018). Austrian “Grandmas against the Right”. Accessed 7 of May.
- Kobalt Productions (15 of May 2018). Omas gegen Rechts – Trailer – 2018. Accessed 6 of May.
- Mirada social (1 of December 2018). ¿Quién era Margarita Guerrero Barrera Oro?. Accessed 6 of May.
- omasgegenrechts.at (n.d.). Grannies International. Accessed 7 of May.
- Pikara (2018), Abuelas austriacas contra la extrema derecha. Accessed 6 of May.
- PINEWS (2018). Der Kampf gegen Rechts. Accessed 6 of May.
- Wikipedia, 2019a. Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo. Accessed 5 of May.