Mother of Plaza de Mayo Norita Cortiñas dies at 94

The beloved human rights activist was recovering from a hernia operation and a pulmonary infection

Nora Cortiñas, a historic human rights activist who co-founded the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (founding branch), died on Thursday. She was in intensive care after undergoing a hernia operation two weeks ago. She was 94 years old.

Nora Morales de Cortiñas, better known as “Norita,” co-founded Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in 1977. At the time, she was desperately searching for her eldest son, Carlos Gustavo, who was forcefully disappeared by the military dictatorship that ruled the country between 1976 and 1983. Gustavo was a political activist, a member of the Peronist party Partido Justicialista and armed organization Montoneros. He was kidnapped on April 15, 1977, and never seen again.

Cortiñas carried on the fight to bring justice to him and the 30,000 people disappeared by the dictatorship. She expanded her activism to other areas regarding human rights, such as the right to safe and free legal abortion and the fight against police and gender-based violence.

Born on March 22, 1930, Cortiñas was a social psychologist and taught at the University of Buenos Aires’ Economic Sciences faculty as head of the “Economic Power and Human Rights” course.

“I was a traditional woman, a stay-at-home mom. I got married to Carlos Cortiñas when I was very young, and we had two sons: Carlos Gustavo and Marcelo Horacio. My husband was a patriarchal man, he wanted me to devote myself to family life,” she said in an interview. “At that time I was a teacher of haute couture and I worked without leaving my home, teaching many young women to sew.”

After Gustavo was disappeared, she said, she started a whole new life. “We are no longer mothers of one child, we are mothers of all the disappeared. Our biological child became 30,000 children,” she said. “And for them, we gave birth to a completely political life in the streets.”

Cortiñas was last seen in public on March 24 at the National Day of Memory, Truth, and Justice march. Despite her age and mobility issues, she was present at Plaza de Mayo in her wheelchair, appearing with her usual white handkerchief over her head and a picture of Gustavo hanging from her neck.

“Deeply concerned in these times about the serious situation our country is going through and always ready to be present wherever there was an injustice, Norita fought until the last moment for the construction of a more just society,” said the communiqué published by her family.

The Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, the grandmothers of the dictatorship’s desaparecidos, said goodbye to their “sister” in a communiqué, calling her an “undisputed leader of the human rights movement in Argentina.”

“In solidarity with all the struggles of the country and the world, she knew how to connect with the younger generations, who recognize her as an example of coherence and activism,” they wrote.

On Thursday, in the weekly march the Mothers do in the Plaza de Mayo since 1977, the demonstrators sent strength and love to her, before shouting: ¡Venceremos!, “We will triumph.”


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald