She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “I am the daughter of an indigenous native and a Spaniard. We, the indigenous people, have a mandate: to bury our dead so that they can rest in peace. And peace shall be with us”.
She says also: “Something can always be done. But we have to be united in order to be able to do a lot”.
Olga del Valle Márquez de Arédez – Argentina
She works for the Missing Persons of the Department of Ledesma.
Olga Márquez was born in Tucumán, a province of Northern Argentina. She married and lived with her husband in Jujuy, a neighboring province. Then, he ‘was disappeared’, by the repressive forces of the Argentinean military dictatorship (1976-1983).
Olga organized the resistance movement in Jujuy. Along with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, she was in the vanguard of the fight for truth and justice, which was essential for bringing down the dictators.A handkerchief, a placard with a photo and great heart ache, those are lethal weapons used against the dictators of Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico .
They are used by the mothers. Nothing or nobody can stop them in their fight for justice, for dignity and the right to live in freedom. They make claims on behalf of their dear, departed ones. Olga Márquez de Arédez is one of the mothers.
Olga was born in Villa La Trinidad, in the province of Tucumán, in the North of Argentina. She finished her Secondary studies in the capital of the province where she met Luis Arédez, a doctor who had just obtained his medical degree. Love was born and shortly afterwards they married.
They moved to Ledesma, in the Jujuy province, which borders on Tucumán. This is a place of multicoloured mountains of an almost unreal beauty. But it is a place where the people, the majority of whom are of indigenous heritage, live out the nightmare of exhausting work, of poverty and disease.
It is where the Ledesma sugarcane installation extends its power over the extensive sugar cane plantations and over the industrial plant. There, products extracted from the plant are made. These are: sugar, alcohol and paper.
Ledesma also extends its power over Ledesma town and the life of its people. Doctor Luis Arédez took care of the workers and cured their children and Olga was always by his side.
But Ledesma’s boss thought that the doctor spent too much money curing the children, “it damaged the interests of the boss ” and Doctor Arédez was dismissed. The trade union of the workers of the sugar plantation engaged him. Olga followed him in his task of improving, in some part, the life of the people.
The affection of the poor people and their grateful smiles was the best compensation he could have. The people of Ledesma chose the helpful doctor as Mayor of the town. In the short time he was allowed to keep this post he tried to alleviate the situation of the inhabitants as much as he could. And he did something more: he managed to get the Ledesma plant to pay taxes. The boss never forgave him for that.
On March 24, 1976 the military junta carried the repression even farther. The whole of the country shook with the noise of machine guns and bombs. The military forces broke into houses committing murders everywhere. The Triple A, a paramilitary body, showed no mercy to the fighters for social justice.
Doctor Alicia Moreau de Justo, the great socialist politician, listened to the distressed women who came to see her. They were mothers, sisters and daughters who were looking untiringly for their disappeared dear family members. She listened with her eyes full of tears.
How much pain there was in the souls of those women! She stretched out her hands, trying to console them. The Movement of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo was born.
On the night of July 27, l976, in the little village of Ledesma, the lights were turned off. In the darkness, the army and the gendarmerie struck and captured more than three hundred male and female workers. They were taken away in cars lent by the Ledesma factory. More than thirty of the workers disappeared. Doctor Luis Arédez was among them.
Olga had already undergone this situation once before when her husband had been caught and she had been threatened. So she had to be strong again this time. She went to all the hospitals and detention places. She had meetings with the military and the bureaucrats. No one knew anything.
The veil of impunity protected them. The search seemed to be in vain. Ignoring the silence and the fear of the people Olga put a white handkerchief on her head, took a placard with the photo of Luis and began to walk in circles around the plaza of Ledesma. “Only an old man dared to greet me making with respect the sign of the cross over me”.
Her solitary march in the park bearing that arrogant placard, making her demands, became known. Her cry was heard even in Buenos Aires where other women walked around the Plaza de Mayo like she did. More and more women came to share her strengths. Suddenly one day she was no longer marching alone, other mothers of Jujuy were there, challenging the Dictatorship and demanding the return of their sons and daughters.
From where had she got so much strength? “I do not know. I felt rage for so much injustice, revulsion against so much badness. Nobody, not even the gendarmes who watched me could stop me. My slogan was: Never accept. Never shut up”.
Her children Olga, Adriana, Ricardo and Luis grew up and began to follow her. But later each of them had to live their own lives. Olga continued with her fight. “I continue fighting for justice, so scarce on this earth”.
The collective memory of Ledesma, remembers the 27th of July as “the night of the blackouts” – The night when darkness tragically spread like a veil over the town while the great power and cruelty of the military showed no mercy against the people, against those who dignified life.
The annual marches on the 27th of July are sacred, like an offering to memory. It is a day to express the reclamation of Olga and of thousands of spouses, mothers, sons and daughters who want to show that they are worth, and have the right to know the truth.
Olga did not falter even during her long illness, a cancer that advanced through her body like the smoke of the furnaces of the industrial sugarcane plant, where the waste of the cane burns at high temperatures poisoning the air of Ledesma.
The furnaces continue working but Olga is no longer with us. On the March 17, 2005 her body could not resist anymore. Her last moments are already memories: calmly she put her affairs in order and made her good-byes to relatives and friends. As she requested, her children scattered her ashes in front of the hills of Calilegua, the place where her husband´s remains lie. (1000PeaceWomen).
All other editions about Olga del Valle Márquez de Arédez, Argentina, are in spanish:
Arédez Sagues, Luis Ramón, Legajo Conadep N° 3376;
Reclamo de Olga Márquez de Arédez contra Ledesma Sociedad Anónima Agrícola Industrial y el Estado Provincial de Jujuy;
Complicidad patronal-militar en la última dictadura argentina;
A un mes de la desaparición de Julio López.