When asked about her memories of ´78 World Cup , Enriqueta Maroni remembers herself in the kitchen of her house, crying, while her husband, in the living room, watched some of the matches of Argentina. Enriqueta was already a Mother of the Plaza de Mayo. She had been a Mother for little more than a year, since April 5th, 1977, more precisely, when two of his sons, Juan Patricio and María Beatriz, were kidnapped. "I was crying in the kitchen telling my husband 'how could they be watching the World Cup'. The pain was so big”, he reconstructs.
Enriqueta isn´t the only Mother of the Plaza de Mayo who remembers with anguish those days when the streets of Argentina, like the stadiums, were filled with confetti and blue and white flags. Today, 40 years later, those who sit down to remember those times assure that those celebrations in the streets, the images of the dictators shouting goals, their pose as hosts of a country that was filled with people from all around the world, deepened the pain that filled them from the day they had stopped knowing about their sons and daughters, if they were hungry, if they were cold, if they still lived.
Haydée Gastelú, for example, took refuge with her husband in the country house they had built "with a lot of effort" in the town of Monte, province of Buenos Aires. There, they sowed, planted and extracted weeds. They installed themselves "without television or radio or anything: football was forbidden".
Vera Jarach, on the other hand, was unable to escape the goals, the results of the matches and the progress of the championship. She was a journalist and worked at ANSA, the Italian news agency, whose Buenos Aires editorial staff was hoarded by the FIFA championship that winter. And Vera suffered. She was "disturbed" by the interest of his co-workers in the World Cup, who didn´t know that the dictatorship had kidnapped his only daughter, Franca, and that she was a Mother of the Plaza de Mayo. They watched the games of the World Cup on the television that was in the newsroom, shouted the goals, and celebrated the triumphs "while there were so many people like us with so much pain”. She remembers the World Cup ´78 and still evokes the day of the final in the editorial office: "My coworkers were exultant while I was crying".
Taty Almeida brings more elements to the analysis. Although her son had been kidnapped in 1975, Taty was not yet part of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. However, in those days she remembers a certain "contradiction" between "the passion that inflamed a whole football fanatic country" and "the horror" of state terrorism. Taty doesn´t look back in anger the festivities game after game, but acknowledges that "the military wanted us to win the World Cup, so they won the laurels. That's what they believed. Yes, it was impressive in the streets, but nothing changed the memory and the claim for justice that of the Mothers, Grandmothers and the relatives of the victims”, ensures. “The World Cup passed, the euphoria passed and we continued with our feet firmly on the ground”.
The terrible final
For Mirta Baravalle and her family, the "blessed" World Cup ´78, as she labeled it ironically, was "terrible".
She and her husband, Ricardo, hated the atmosphere of revelry that reigned in the country on the occasion of the FIFA championship. "My husband complained: 'All are happy and we without our Ana, without knowing about her'". Since August 1976 they had no information about the whereabouts of Ana María, her daughter, who had been kidnapped on the 26th of that month with her husband, Julio César Galizzi. The kidnapping of Ana María, who was pregnant, made Mirta one of the 12 founders of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and, also, a Grandmother.
Ana Maria's parents suffered the whole World Cup, but Mirta especially remembers the day of the final. She had convinced Ricardo to accept the neighbor's invitation to come over to watch the game. She stayed alone in the kitchen of their house, kneading some cookies that she knew her husband liked. Argentina beat the Netherlands and the celebrations began. When Ricardo returned home, in San Martin, she heard him staying in the gallery. "It was strange that he didn´t enter the kitchen. He always came to the kitchen. Then I went looking for him”, she says. She found her husband walking and rubbing his chest. She asked what was wrong and he replied that she would ask "Doña María - a neighbor - one of those pills ". She helped him to lie down and run for the pill. When she returned, Ricardo no longer reacted.
Mirta screamed her neighbors for help, who contacted their brother-in-law. She remembers that they tried to communicate with a doctor, with some ambulance "but nobody answered, they were all celebrating the championship". Then, his brother-in-law went out to the street and started waving a white handkerchief until a "little jeep truck with a big box behind" took them to the hospital. It was in vain, they didn´t manage to save Ricardo. "In the middle of the entire hullabaloo, the whistles, the rattles that were heard throughout the neighborhood, in the middle of that “blessed” World Cup my husband died”.
That pain, however, didn´t immobilize them. They took advantage of the arrival of the foreign players and, above all, of foreign media to the country. Some didn´t, but many knew that Argentina succumbed under a military dictatorship; the denunciations of kidnappings, of tortures, of disappearances, of theft of babies perpetrated by the dictators and their civil and ecclesiastical accomplices had reached their lands. They also knew of the persistent claim of the "Mad Mothers", who circled around the Plaza de Mayo, in front of the Casa Rosada, with white headscarves on their heads. Many journalists approached those rounds and spoke with them.
“We took advantage” says Enriqueta. Her face, her voice, her accusations of kidnappings, of robberies and destruction in the homes of the victims of state terrorism, her demand for information not only about them, the disappeared, but also about their babies. “We know they were born”, she was able to say, firmly, to a journalist from Dutch television.
Mirta also remembers the visits of the foreign press to the Plaza and the interviews that were scheduled with those "journalists from the world" in bars and hotels. She remembers that they took advantage of "every occasion to bring whomever the denunciations of what happened in the country”. In those times, the Mothers, “even in an improvised way, did everything to tell what was happening to us. Nothing was easy at that time. We knew that one way or another we were being watched, but we tried anyway”. One of the strategies that were later implemented and organized over time was to write letters with claims for information about the children abducted, about the stolen grandchildren. During the World Cup ´78 they wrote letters to the players.