A mother’s story of loss and courage

Renowned Argentinian human rights leader Nora Cortiñas (left) will deliver the 2006 Michael Baptista Lecture at York  on Friday, Sept. 22, from 7 to 9pm. A founding member of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo -Linea Fundadora (Mothers of May Square), Cortiñas is a social psychologist and chair in the Economics Department at the University of Buenos Aires, where she teaches about the relationship between economic power and human rights.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1976 coup that ushered in a seven-year military dictatorship in Argentina. An estimated 30,000 people were forcibly “disappeared”. Many were tortured and murdered during this period, among them, Cortiñas’ son, Carlos Gustavo, a university student and member of the Peronist youth movement.

Shortly after her son’s disappearance in April 1977, and at the height of the military dictatorship, Cortiñas joined a group of mothers who had met in the waiting rooms of police stations while trying to discover the whereabouts of their children. Together, they organized the first of a continuing series of demonstrations in front of the Presidential Palace in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. Each Thursday afternoon since, the mothers have continued to march in the Plaza de Mayo, demanding that the fate of the victims be made known and that justice be served. The enormous risk they took was illustrated by the fact that some of their members, including Azucena de Villaflor, the first president of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, themselves disappeared.

Right: Carlos Gustavo Cortiñas, a university student and member of the Peronist youth movement, was one of 30,000 people who were forcibly “disappeared” during the military coup in Argentina

The Madres de Plaza de Mayo have become an important political force in Argentina and an international symbol of courage and human rights activism. In her presentation, Cortiñas will discuss the history of the Madres, the current situation in Argentina and the role of women in struggles for human rights.

The lecture will be held in Lecture Hall C, Computer Science & Engineering Bldg. 

Presented on a biannual basis, the series was established to honour the memory and work of Michael Baptista, a York University Schulich School of Business MBA graduate and Royal Bank executive, who died in 1995. The lecture is given by a prominent speaker from Latin America and the Caribbean and addresses issues critical to the regions and their place in the world. Past speakers in the series include Nobel Laureate and former president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias (1999); Colombian human rights activist, Amanda Romero (2001); and, J. Michael Dash, renowned scholar of Haitian literature (2004).