Uruguay: Beatriz Benzano Seré

Very soon, I understood that I could not be happy being far away from the people who were suffering. For me, the most important thing is being near the humblest people in my country.

— Beatriz Benzano Seré

As a Dominican nun, Beatriz Benzano knew the suffering of the marginalized populations of Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Santiago. She left her order and joined the legendary Tupamaros movement, until she was captured, tortured and confined to prison for four years. She returned to Uruguay, from her exile in France, to organize the group Dawn of New Paris–Women for a Dignified Life, helping people living on the streets and families whose lives had been destroyed by unemployment. She particularly dedicated her work to the aid and defense of abandoned women.

Motivated by the idea that it is not possible to be happy without other people, at the age of 21, Beatriz Benzano entered the Dominican Order, where she had received her education. As a nun, she shared the life of poor families in the shanty towns of her native Montevideo and in the poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Trying to understand the causes of the marginalization they suffered, she moved to Chile to do political, economic and social studies with Paulo Freire. After her return, she decided to leave the religious order for the militancy in the Tupamaros movement for national liberation. In 1972, she was captured, tortured and, without any trial, confined to Punta de Rieles Prison. She remained there, along with other political female prisoners, for four years. On her liberation, Beatriz Benzano had to seek exile in France. From there, she collaborated with the dissemination of information about her people's fight and the fight of the other Latin-American populations who were struggling to break the power of dictatorships. Along with a group of internationalists, she joined a solidarity brigade with the triumphant victors of the revolution in Nicaragua. After the democratic liberalization in Uruguay, she returned from exile to create the Dawn of New Paris Group–Women for a Dignified Life, a NGO that organizes construction cooperatives and work projects, which encourage the creation of small businesses in addition to organizing nurseries for the care of children. Beatriz gives special attention to lonely women and young girls excluded from the educational system. She is particularly concerned with the defense of reproductive rights and the struggle to decriminalize abortion. The path is uncertain, but there is a fountain of hope bringing better conditions for individuals and collective change.

Dawn of New Paris Group–Women for a Dignified Life