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Grandmother Finds Grandson, Abducted In Argentina's Dirty War

Estela de Carlotto (center), head of the Argentine human rights organization that seeks to reunite babies stolen decades ago with their biological relatives, announced on Monday she had located her 36-year-old grandson.
Estela de Carlotto (center), head of the Argentine human rights organization that seeks to reunite babies stolen decades ago with their biological relatives, announced on Monday she had located her 36-year-old grandson.

Estela de Carlotto, the president of a human rights group in Argentina fighting to reunite children kidnapped as babies, has finally found her grandson. It only took 36 years.

Carlotto's group, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, has been working for decades to find out what happened to babies born to political dissidents and taken by the military dictatorship for adoption in new families in the late 1970s and early '80s. The dictatorship imprisoned or killed at least 9,000, though some estimates put it at as high as 30,000.

Carlotto's grandson is the 114th "stolen child" found so far by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Estela de Carlotto's daughter Laura was killed in 1978.
Marcos Brindicci / Reuters/Landov
Estela de Carlotto's daughter Laura was killed in 1978.

The grandson volunteered for a DNA test after having doubts about his identity. Carlotto didn't release his name, but the AP has identified him as Ignacio Hurban, 36, a pianist and composer living near Buenos Aires.

The DNA test revealed that he is the son of Carlotto's daughter, Laura, an activist killed in 1978.

Writer Francisco Goldman has been chronicling Carlotto's story over the years and spoke with Morning Edition host David Greene.

Here are the highlights:

On what happened to the dissidents and their babies

The people that disappeared were often taken to secret detention centers and tortured, kept prisoner for a while, and in most circumstances, finally disappeared, their bodies just buried in anonymous graves. But what made Argentina really unique and different was that when they had pregnant prisoners — because these were very young women, student-age women, young mothers — ... they kept them alive until the baby was born, and then they would take those babies away and kill the mother.

On Carlotto's story

Estela de Carlotto's story is really stunning. ...

One day she was called into a police station, and her daughter's body was given to her and her husband, no explanation. She immediately went and joined the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

There were bullet wounds in [her daughter's] abdomen and womb, which she later interpreted to mean that they were trying to hide that she'd been pregnant.

On locating her grandson

This is 36 years later. She oversaw the discovery and reuniting with families of over 100 of these missing grandchildren. You just can't imagine the love these children who get their heritage given back to them have for her. Everybody felt it's 36 years, it's been a long time.

So as the years went by, and the campaigns that publicize this phenomenon went on, and as the profile of the grandmothers grew nationally and internationally, so many years have passed and nobody really believed anymore that she would ever find her own missing grandson. And that he suddenly turns up now is extraordinary.

On whether this moment might be a turning point for more stolen children to come forward

I think that the outpouring of emotion over this will probably motivate something like that.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.