Farewell to Norita Cortiñas, symbol of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo’s fight against the Argentine dictatorship

Nora Cortiñas, founder and leader of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and tireless fighter for human rights, dies at 94

Nora Cortiñas, known affectionately as Norita, spent more than half of her life searching for her son, who disappeared during Argentina‘s last dictatorship, and fighting for the rights of all.

She passed away at the age of 94. For decades, she was a familiar figure in protests, roadblocks, political assemblies, and demonstrations across a nation torn by tyranny. Always present was her raised fist, her white headscarf, and the photograph of her son in hand.

Norita was not just a social activist and teacher; she was a champion of human rights and a feminist. She co-founded the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a movement of women searching for the desaparecidos—the disappeared—of Argentina’s dictatorship. In 2018, this group was officially nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their relentless efforts to find children and young people who vanished without a trace.

“I grew up for years in a sexist and patriarchal home, and when they took my son, a veil was lifted, and I gathered all the strength and drive to take to the streets and overcome all obstacles,” Norita once shared. “Beyond the pain, they told us not to go out, to stay home. We had to shed a system that we had internalized in our bodies and minds and realize that we have rights.”

Her son, Gustavo Cortiñas, a Peronist militant and civil servant, was abducted on April 15, 1977, in Castelar, west of Buenos Aires. From that day forward, Norita searched for him in thousands of places—like many others in similar situations—until she met other women enduring the same plight and became a Mother of Plaza de Mayo.

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