Latin America & Caribbean

100 Women 2015: The grandmother looking for Argentina's stolen babies

Estela de Carlotto, president of Argentine human rights organization Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Estela de Carlotto has been fighting for decades to reunite stolen babies with their biological parents

Estela de Carlotto is a 85-year-old Argentine activist and the president of The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an organisation that reunites biological grandparents with people that were snatched as babies in prisons and clandestine detention centres by the 1970s military junta. Last year, after nearly four decades looking for him, Ms de Carlotto was reunited with her own grandson Guido. She talked to BBC Mundo's Ignacio de los Reyes about the experience.

On 5 August 2014, after 36 years looking for him, a judge told me my grandson Guido had been found.

When I first saw a picture of him as a baby, at a time when he was being raised by another family, my heart broke.

Why couldn't I have taken care of him? Why couldn't I have seen that cute little face? Why couldn't I have been the one buying him a new bike or knitting clothes for him? There is no way to make up for lost time.

Estela de Carlotto is one of our 100 Women 2015

This year's season features two weeks of inspirational stories about the BBC's 100 Women and others who are defying stereotypes around the world.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram using the hashtag #100Women. Listen to programmes here.

It has been a year already and we are still getting to know each other.

This case helped to raise awareness of the hundreds of babies that are still missing in Argentina, so people understand and do not forget.

But above all, it was proof that there can be a fight of love, perseverance and respect… and that fight can be successful.

A woman's force

We women have a powerful force inside us. But we are not aware of it until life puts us in these sorts of situations, in which we have to defend our children's lives.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Estela de Carlotto was reunited with her grandson Guido last year

I learned that any effort is useless if it is not a common effort.

There must be a collective fight, to which everyone brings the best of themselves. That has been the case with The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo.

When I started looking for my daughter, Laura, I soon realised I would spend my whole life fighting for this cause.

Life is full of dangers and risks, of forces willing to break the life of those who think differently - we shouldn't stay indifferent to that, but we should fight with peace and love.

Witnessing history

I was born in 1930, the year of the first dictatorship in Argentina.

In 1955, the presidential palace and the Plaza de Mayo were bombed in order to attack President Juan Domingo Peron.

Hundreds of Peronists [supporters of President Peron] were executed, political parties were forbidden… and I did nothing to stop it.

I thought that was all right, because I was raised to be against Peronism.

My daughter Laura was a baby in 1955, and then two decades later she died fighting for the Peronist ideals.

If I had taken to the streets and protested against that coup, maybe my daughter would still be alive today.

Now, my duty is to teach people that we do not have to be enemies just because we think differently.

On ageing

There are pros and cons that come with age.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Estela de Carlotto (right) spent decades searching for her grandson

Age gives women experience: you learn things but you walk more slowly! We want to do so many things and the body will just not let us.

I have a mind of someone in their 20s and the body of an 85-year-old.

There are so many women around the world, so many mothers and grandmothers that have organised themselves into pressure groups inspired by the Argentine example.

The more united we are in our fight, the more effective we will be in avoiding the same mistakes of the past.


Argentina's military rule

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Gen Videla (right) seized power in 1976

1976: General Jorge Videla seizes power - thousands of political opponents rounded up and killed

1982: Videla's successor, General Leopoldo Galtieri, orders invasion of British-held Falkland Islands

1983: Civilian rule returns to Argentina, investigations into rights abuses begin

2010: Videla sentenced to life imprisonment for murders during his term in office

2012: Videla sentenced to 50 years for overseeing systematic theft of the babies of political prisoners


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