Back to Buenos Aires – the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

Heading back to Buenos Aires presents a choice: either take the ferry which is shorter and faster and more money, or ride north and cross over the Rio Parana at Fray Bentos which means an extra 600 km and a day of riding but less money.  So we opt for the scenic route.

We ride through the joint Argentina/Uruguay border on the Uruguay side and get all squared away with our papers.  Then up and over the big bridge and wide river back into Argentina.

As we start to get into the outskirts of Buenos Aires, but are still nearly 24 miles from our hostel, the road grows into a multi-lane truck-filled monster.  I’m so glad we are riding in on a Sunday afternoon, because weekdays must be exponentially worse. I’m following fairly closely behind Brian when all of a sudden – smack!  I see his bike sort of lurch, but then keep moving, while chunks of black stuff rolls out from under his bike.  What is that?!  Is it pieces of his back tire tread?!  OMG!  Thankfully he was in the far right lane and that there is actually a shoulder on this section of the highway that he can drift onto and get out of the fast flowing traffic.

I ride past him as he slows quickly and pulls over and then I drift onto the shoulder too, park up, and walk back to see what happened.

His chain has come apart.  And in the process, at 50 mph (80 kph), his chain has eaten the chain guard sending shards of black plastic out from under his bike. Trucks whiz by as he inspects the damage.  But Brian is mindful of the big rigs, cars and buses just feet from him.

Just ahead is an entrance ramp onto the highway and we push his bike up to it and then down the wrong way, against traffic, and into the parking lot of a service station. I ride down and park up and see what I can do to help, which is pretty much nada, except buy us some cold water.

Brian sets to work putting a clip link and rivet in to nurse his chain back to town and to our hostel where hopefully he can get a new chain.  He is lucky that none of the other links are missing and that this should work.

And within a half hour we are back on the road with crossed fingers.

We catch up with great friends for dinner that night and spend the next couple of days tracking down a new chain for Brian’s bike and getting it replaced before we start the process of shipping the bikes to North America. Vancouver here we come!

One of the things I wanted to do during our last visit to BA, but didn’t have the time to do, was to witness the Thursday afternoon/evening marches at the Plaza de Mayo.  We have heard bits of stories about the “lost children” of Argentina but haven’t openly asked or been able to find much information on what happened. What we hear is that somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 children went missing in the 70s and 80s and were never heard from again. People were too fearful of the government to speak out about it in public for fear of disappearing themselves. But the heartbroken mothers of those children started to hold silent vigils in 1977 at the Plaza de Mayo every Thursday evening as a way of silently saying “it happened and we will not forget”. Several of the original founding mothers also “disappeared” during those years, but others filled their ranks as the silent protest carried on.

To this day, from what I am told by a fellow traveler who asked a local, most of the citizens of Argentina still believe the government propaganda that “it never happened” and will not talk about the events. I hate to pry, so I don’t ask, I just read online.

The mothers who lost children wear white scarves on their heads. And family, friends and supporters walk with them while they march in a circle around the obelisk in the center of the plaza.  On the Thursday we visit, a woman stands with a PA system and reads out the names of the children who have been reported as being lost during the years of the Dirty War.

It’s heart wrenching to watch. Courage and strength are the only words that come to mind. It’s one of the most moving events I have witnessed in the entire two years of our trip.

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