This is one of the year’s biggest news stories in Argentina, one of those stories that everyone wants to share. Estela de Carlotto, president of Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, has found her grandson Guido after a nearly four-decade-long search. The baby was kidnapped by agents of the Argentinean military dictatorship (1976-1983). Laura, De Carlotto’s daughter and Guido’s mother, would be 60 today if she had not been killed when she was just 24.
Estela de Carlotto was a teacher when Laura died. Her daughter and her partner belonged to the guerrilla movement, Los Montoneros. De Carlotto knew that Laura was pregnant when she was arrested and several witnesses told her that her daughter gave birth while handcuffed. She called the boy Guido, after his grandfather.
Soon, De Carlotto began to search for Guido. She never spoke of hatred or vengeance. She only wanted justice. The grandmother became a prominent world figure in the defense of human rights. The young man, a musician based in Buenos Aires, is the group’s 114th recovered grandchild. DNA testing revealed there was a 99-percent probability that Guido was De Carlotto’s grandson.
De Carlotto’s triumph is especially symbolic given her role in the Grandmothers group. As she said on Tuesday: “There are kids who don’t come to us because they have affection for, and feel kind of indebted to, those who raised them, and their parents make them feel like, ‘How can you report me when I raised you and fed you?’... As if they had done them a favor, when they should have left them with their blood relatives, who never abandoned them. And, for the sake of reciprocity, these kids say they can’t come forward because they do not want those who stole them to go to prison. And, sometimes, they come around when these people die. I don’t think they ought to feel any kind of gratitude to them. Or, hate. Luckily, none of our grandchildren are vengeful… but they feel they have rights. And the right to know one’s identity is a universal law. Otherwise, you are anonymous and that anonymity is passed down to younger generations. We – the Grandmothers – do not have the right to say whether these people should be judged or not. That’s the job of the justice system. We find them and the courts do their part.”
When Guido was born on June 26, 1978 in Buenos Aires Military Hospital, the regime was only two years old. Laura, his mother, was with him for less than five hours. She was a prisoner in La Cacha, a secret detention center in La Plata area of Buenos Aires Province. She and her 23-year-old partner were arrested in November 1977 while she was two months’ pregnant.
Laura was killed two months later and her body was returned to her mother. On Tuesday, Judge María Servini de Cubría, who is overseeing several disappeared persons cases, gave De Carlotto the good news. “It was a very emotional moment,” Servini de Cubría told CN23, a Argentinean TV station. “It didn’t just touch me. It also touched the people who work with me. Estela cried, shook, and she was extremely happy because she never expected the news. I gave her the news in person. I said, ‘Estela, we have found another child.’ And when I told her it was Guido... just imagine how she reacted.”
Guido teaches at a music school, and participated in the music festivals the Grandmothers organize
Until this week, Guido de Carlotto was known as Ignacio Hurban, the name given to him by his adoptive parents, or “appropriators” as the Grandmothers call them. Hurban grew up in Olavarría, a municipality 308 kilometers south of the capital. He moved to Buenos Aires as a teenager to study music. According to his website, he then came back to Olavarría. He teaches at a music school, likes jazz and tango, and participated in the music festivals the Grandmothers organize.
“I only want justice and truth,” De Carlotto said during a press conference on Tuesday. “I already have my other 14 grandchildren with me. The empty seat is for him. The empty portraits that were waiting for us will go to him. I have already seen him [in photos]. He’s beautiful. An artist and a good man. And, he looked for us. He came to the Grandmothers in July. We met with him and listened to him. When I do see him, I won’t say anything. I will give him a hug. I want to touch him. I want to see if he’s the way we dreamed he’d be. I saw him in the pictures and, yes, he looks like us. They told him he looked like the De Carlottos, that he looked like me. So, he probably won’t be surprised by the news. When they told him, ‘You are Estela’s grandson,’ that piece of the puzzle that didn’t fit fell into place. We don’t know the whole story yet but we do know who gave him away and who raised him. Still, we are going to be prudent because this is a lot for a person to take, even if he expected it.”
De Carlotto preferred not to show her grandson’s picture because she wants to wait for him to process the news. So far, Hurban has only talked to Claudia, one of De Carlotto’s children. “He asked us to give him time to talk to his wife and digest the news,” she said.
“I haven’t heard his voice yet,” De Carlotto admitted. “But I told him that I liked that we were going to see each other soon, that it made me happy. He knows the whole family is waiting for him.”
“This is for those who want us to forget, who want us to turn the page, as if nothing had happened. We have to keep looking for those who are still missing because other grandmothers want to feel what I am feeling today. Because I did not want to die without hugging him. And now I will be able to hug him.”
Every time someone asked De Carlotto what would happen if she never found her grandson, she said her efforts had already paid off because so many others had been recovered. Kibo de Carlotto, Laura’s brother, said Guido volunteered for DNA testing.
Even the president celebrated the group’s triumph. “Cristina [Fernández] called me, crying,” the happy grandmother said. “She asked me if the news was true and I said yes. We both cried. We didn’t know what to say… No Argentinean media outlet, even if they don’t like us very much, can say that this isn’t a victory for Argentina.”
On June 26, 2011, Estela de Carlotto wrote the following in the newspaper, Página 12.
Today, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have 150 employees in 85 offices throughout Argentina. They continue to find lost grandchildren and they still have 400 outstanding cases to solve.
Translation: Dyane Jean François