Green bandana from Argentina made its way to the US

It’s a ubiquitous symbol at abortion rights rallies across Latin America: the bright green bandana.

So many protesters are wearing bandanas around their heads, necks or wrists that recent easing restrictions on abortion throughout the region became known as the “Green Wave”.

These days, the bandana also appears in the United States.

From outside the Supreme Court in Washington in downtown los angeles, Crowds protesting last week’s cancellation of Roe vs. Wade was dotted with green.

“Green symbolizes the international inspiration of the struggle women around the world have led for abortion rights,” said Michelle Zay, a 29-year-old New York-based organizer for the Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights coalition. which was formed in January.

At a rally this week outside a federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, activists read statements from their colleagues in Peru, Argentina and Brazil calling on American politicians to act.

The green bandana debuted in 2003 in the Argentine city of Rosario, when the abortion rights group Catholics for the Right to Decide recruited women’s clothing cooperatives to produce 3,000 bandanas for distribution to a women’s march.

Martha Alanis, 73, the organization’s founder, said green – “the color of nature” – was chosen because it “means life, and we’re up against a sector that calls itself pro-life and robs us of our word.” The group also wanted to avoid the colors of the Argentine flag or colors associated with political movements.

“We couldn’t imagine the dimension the green handkerchief would take on,” she said. “It was a five minute conversation. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be a grand debate.”

This concept was also inspired Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina who wore white bandanas to draw attention to their children, who were kidnapped during the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983.

In 2005, the new nationwide abortion rights coalition designated the green bandanna as the official symbol of their campaign.

“It has become a symbol of our struggle,” said Nina Brugo, a 78-year-old national abortion pioneer. “It was a way to come together for the march.”

The bandana became more visible as the campaign for abortion rights in Argentina gained momentum.

Activists handed out over 200,000 handkerchiefs in 2018 as tens of thousands of women took to the streets of Buenos Aires in massive protest. Two years later, the Argentine Congress legalized abortion before the 14th week of pregnancy.

Other countries followed suit. In 2021, the Mexican Supreme Court voted to decriminalize abortion. This year, the Colombian Constitutional Court legalized abortion before the 24th week of pregnancy. In Chile, a draft new constitution to be voted on this year contains a clause protecting the right to abortion.

In all these countries, activists have used green handkerchiefs as an organizing tool.

Ana Cristina González Vélez, leader of the abortion rights movement in Colombia, said people “associate this with the global struggle, which is the struggle of all women in the world for reproductive freedom.”