Tags: Argentina | rights | children | dictatorship

Argentine Relishes Reunion with Lost 'Dirty War' Grandson

Friday, 03 October 2014 10:07 AM

At age 83, Estela de Carlotto is enjoying what she calls a miracle. The grandson she lost decades ago in Argentina's "Dirty War" is suddenly back in her life.

Carlotto -- whose pregnant daughter Laura was kidnapped under the regime that ruled from 1976-83, robbed of her baby and killed -- spent 37 years trying to track down the child.

Now, out of the blue, she has had the chance to finally, slowly get to know him.

His name is Ignacio Guido Montoya Carlotto, and he is a musician, aged 36. He cooks well, too, says the grandmother, just like his grandfather did.

On Wednesday night he dedicated a concert to his long lost blood family.

And he did it at a powerfully symbolic place: the ESMA, a former Argentine naval college that was one of the regime's most notorious torture centers.

"I am still astonished by this miracle, which came all of a sudden," de Carlotto told AFP in an interview.

During the dictatorship successive military juntas waged a so-called "dirty war" against perceived leftist dissent.

An estimated 30,000 people were killed or abducted and presumed killed during the regime's offensive. Pregnant prisoners were often forced to give birth blindfolded and handcuffed.

Their babies were then taken away and often given to military or police families, sometimes even to their parents' killers.

Of some 500 babies stolen from their captive mothers, 115 have been found through genetic testing and the efforts of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a rights group founded by women fighting to locate their stolen grandchildren.

Carlotto is its president.

Her abducted daughter Laura gave birth in 1978 and her son was taken away in a matter of five hours. She was killed. The baby was given to a rural family and registered under the name Ignacio Hurban.

The miracle that the grandmother now celebrates came on August 5 of this year, when the grandson underwent a DNA test and it was confirmed who he really was.

Carlotto said she is taking the process of getting to know Ignacio little by little, so as not to overwhelm him.

"I looked for him tirelessly for 37 years. Even before he was born I was looking for him, and I waited for him when he was born, to take care of him," she said with a bright smile.

She said she had at times feared the worse, that he was dead, like his mother.

"And now, he is here. It is incredible," she said.

Likewise for Ignacio.

"My head is constantly processing things. This is like getting to know my parents, learning my identity," he said Tuesday on Argentine TV.

Grandmother Carlotto says she does not want to meet the couple who raised Ignacio.

"It is not my business to meet them," she told AFP.

"I know they are humble people, I know they worked the fields. They were good to him, they treated him well, they gave him love," she said.

But for now, "I have no interest in meeting them because I would not know what to say to them."

She said it is up to the courts to decide how to punish that couple for registering the boy as their own.

Carlotto said that despite her newfound joy over being with her grandson, she will continue to work at the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to keep finding people given away as babies.

"There are 400 more to be found. I do not forget that for a single day," she said.

But for now, these two people are gingerly making up for lots of lost time.

Carlotto has baked her grandson a typical Argentine cake called pastrafrola. And he has invited her to his home and cooked chop suey for her.

"I am enormously happy to have found him. It shows that with perseverance, you can achieve things, in ways and with rewards that life hands out sometimes," she said.


© AFP 2020

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Argentina, rights, children, dictatorship
Friday, 03 October 2014 10:07 AM
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