Argentina: New hope born as 'stolen grandson' emerges

Estela de Carlotto (R) hugs her grandson Ignacio Hurban Estela de Carlotto described finding her lost grandson as "reparation" for her and for Argentina

The headquarters of the campaign group, the Grandmothers of May Square, or "Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo", in Buenos Aires has not been this busy in years.

Its activists are getting a record number of calls from people who claim to have doubts about their own identity, suspecting they may be one of the "stolen babies" from the junta regime years.

Start Quote

I was at home, playing piano and having tea and pastries when I got the call”

End Quote Guido Carlotto

Some of the grandmothers call it "the Guido effect".

Last week, human rights activist Estela de Carlotto was reunited with her long-lost grandson, Guido, for the first time since he was snatched by the military junta in the late 1970s.

He came to the organisation last month for DNA testing because he had doubts about his identity.

This 36-year-old music teacher, who was raised by a family of peasants under the name of Ignacio Hurban, finally found out the truth.

Estela de Carlotto (left) Estela de Carlotto (left) fought for decades to reunite stolen babies with their biological parents

"I was at home, playing piano and having tea and pastries when I got the call. They told me they had the results…

"I was Estela de Carlotto's grandson! I am so moved, everything has happened so fast, but it is wonderful and magic," he said, seated next to his grandmother at a press conference.

"I am comfortable with the truth that has come to me and I am happy."

Huge impact

Campaigners at the Grandmothers of May Square usually get between 10 and 40 calls a day from people having doubts about their identity.

The day after Ignacio discovered his real name was Guido, the group received so many calls it had to hire extra staff.

"The impact has been much bigger than any of our campaigns, the phones keep ringing" it says.

Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Rosa Roisinblit (left), 95, and Estela de Carlotto (right), hug during a news conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 5 August 2014. Rosa Roisinblit (left) found her lost grandson thanks to a genetic data bank Ms Carlotto's organisation set up

"I hope more young people like Guido will come to us, I think this is going to encourage them," 95-year old activist Rosa Roisinblit told the BBC.

She was reunited with her grandson, Guillermo, in 2000.

Since then she has dedicated her life to finding the children abducted from their parents during the era that became known as the "Dirty War".

"We are satisfied Guido found us, he came to us, it has been a mission accomplished. But there is still work to be done," Mrs Roisinblit adds.

Grey line

Dirty War timeline

• 1976 - A military junta led by Gen Jorge Videla seizes power; opponents of the regime are rounded up in the Dirty War which sees thousands of people "disappear"

• 1978 - Argentina win the football World Cup, which is hosted in the country amid little international awareness of the junta's aggression

• 1981 - Gen Leopoldo Galtieri heads the military's regime

• 1982 - Argentine forces temporarily occupy the British-held Falkland Islands - known as Las Malvinas in Argentina

• 1983 - Civilian rule returns to Argentina

• 1984 - The Argentine Truth Commission reports on human rights violations during military rule, recording 9,000 cases of forced disappearance

Grey line

The children of left-wing political opponents were often passed junta sympathisers.

Some 30,000 people were murdered during the 1976-1983 military rule in Argentina, including Guido's parents.

Start Quote

I am confident I will have the joy of hugging my grandson before I die”

End Quote Sonia Torres Founder, Cordoba Grandmothers

More than 100 of their lost children have been tracked down, but the Grandmothers believe there are 400 more still to be identified.

Sonia Torres' grandson is one of them.

She is the founder of Abuelas Cordoba, an organisation that looks for missing relatives in the Argentine province of Cordoba, where more than 400 calls were received this week.

She said watching Estela de Carlotto's reunion with her grandson has filled her with hope.

"I am confident I will have the joy of hugging my grandson before I die," she says.

Undated file photograph showing former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla in Buenos Aires. AFP Former Argentine military leader Jorge Rafael Videla died in jail in 2013

Her daughter Silvia Parodi was kidnapped while she was pregnant and gave birth at a military facility, like Guido's mother and many other left-wing activists at the time.

It is believed her son was taken away and adopted.

"He must be 38 now, I know he is alive and he is among us, very well hidden. But one day he will knock on the door and say, 'Grandma, here I am'."

Start Quote

It took 36 years to find 114 grandchildren. Imagine how long we need to find the remaining 400 still missing.”

End Quote Rosa Roisinblit Grandmothers of May Square
Looking for you

These women have spent half their lives trying to solve a puzzle.

Most of their sons and daughters were presumed dead because the military junta rarely gave relatives the permission to bury any bodies.

However, the Grandmothers of May Square knew those babies and children were somewhere living under a different identity.

That is why in recent years they have been launching campaigns in the media and through social networks to encourage men and women in their 30s with doubts about their personal histories to have a DNA test, which can be compared with the records in the national genetic database.

Ignacio Hurban on 5 August 2014 Ignacio Hurban discovered he was born Guido Montoya Carlotto to a political prisoner killed by the junta

During the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Argentine football stars Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano threw their support behind one of the most successful campaigns for the Grandmothers so far.

It was called "We have been looking for you for the last 10 World Cups."

Many other sports personalities, actors and politicians support the Grandmothers, including some of the "recovered" grandchildren who are now members of Congress or human rights activists, after discovering their true identity.

A long wait

However, these women know it will not be easy to find all those missing.

"We cannot expect all these young people to come to us from one day to another. We know these men and women won't come en masse to have blood tests done," Mrs Roisinblit says.

"This case might help to spread the word, but we still need to be patient."

They have been waiting for the last 40 years.

The Grandmothers are now in their 80s or 90s.

They know they are running out of time but are far from resigned.

"It took us 36 years to find 114 grandchildren. Imagine how long we need to find the remaining 400 still missing."

More on This Story

Related Stories

More Latin America & Caribbean stories

RSS

Features

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.