Buenos Aires, Argentina – As a child growing up in the city of La Plata in the 80s, Leonardo Fossati looked in the mirror and thought the reality was on the other side.
It was a game the boy made. He felt like he was living in a movie and that there was something in his life that he couldn’t see. Years later, he would understand the game as much as he could: a demonstration among others that there was more to his story.
In fact, their story was entirely different. The people who raised him were not his biological parents and a DNA test in 2005 determined that he was one of the Stolen grandchildren from Argentina: children who were born in prison during the military dictatorship that terrorized the country from 1976 to 1983 and who were given to other families to raise.
His parents, Ines Beatriz Ortega and Rubén Leonardo Fossati, are among 30,000 people who were missing by security forces during that period and whose remains have never been recovered.
“No matter how hard it is, the truth always creates a solid foundation from which to continue with your life,” he said.
That Fossati and others like him know the truth is thanks to the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, (a Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo), a women’s organization that defied a shroud of silence over Argentina during the dictatorship and held weekly marches demanding to know what happened to their missing children and grandchildren.
To date, the identities of 130 people have been re-established with DNA testing. But the search continues for about 300 more – and a new campaign tries to do it COVID-19 vaccinations and vaccinations to help in this task.
‘Help us find it’
With 40-year-olds – the age group corresponding to grandchildren – now vaccinated in Argentina, Abuelas asks people to post photos of his shots on social media with the hashtag #UnaDosisDeIdentidad (A Dose of Identity).
The posts are accompanied by a text urging all those born between 1975 and 1980 and who have doubts about their identity to join the organization, which is constantly coming up with new ways to keep research alive.
“We see it as an opportunity because in a short period of time, the grandchildren we are looking for will be careful because they are vaccinated,” said Belen Altamiranda Taranto, the 88th identified grandchild, who now works with Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo in the city of Cordoba.
This year, the government also launched a campaign aimed at Argentines living abroad under the banner “Argentina Te Busca” – Argentina is looking for you. Many people have discovered their true identity after moving overseas as adults in the Netherlands, the United States and Spain. Others were found at a younger age in Chile and Uruguay.
“Help us find them,” Felipe Sola, the foreign minister, said in a video message ordering people to contact an Argentine consulate with questions.
Atrocities of dictatorship
That so many grandchildren remain untold speaks of the pact of silence that remains between those who have committed atrocities.
Under the pretext of eradicating left-wing rebels, security forces have unleashed a large-scale state terrorism campaign that has wiped out political dissidents, students, activists, trade union militants, journalists and many others.
People were snatched from the streets, tortured, murdered, shot down in the river below or buried in unmarked graves during the dictatorship period. The young women who were pregnant at the time of her disappearance gave birth in clandestine detention centers and their children were later placed in the homes of families who supported the army, or with others who did not ask questions about it. the origin of children.
They were not isolated incidents, but a systematic plan of appropriation of children that constitutes a crime against humanity, an Argentine court found in 2012. More than 1,000 people were convicted for their roles in that dark period. .
Destruction of generations
Initiatives such as the Una Dosis campaign offer a glimmer of hope for people like Anna Carriquiriborde, 41, whose aunt Gabriela Carriquiriborde disappeared in 1976 in La Plata. Her family is looking for her child, born in prison in December of that year.
Witnesses say the boy was a child, Carriquiriborde said, although a woman who believes she is Gabriela’s daughter is currently awaiting the results of a DNA test. Two other people were also suspected of being Gabriela’s child, but they were negative.
“Obviously, I am very anxious to meet my cousin,” said Carriquiriborde, who lives in La Plata but was born and raised in Sweden, who gave political asylum to her parents fleeing the dictatorship. “We talk about it all the time as a family. It would bring us a lot of happiness, to find closure in this story. ”
The discovery would be particularly important for the father, he said; Like his missing sister, she was a member of the Peronist University Youth, the university wing of the Peronist political party, and feels guilty for what happened to her.
“I think it’s all very unfortunate, and to have them held captive to drive their children away,” Carriquiriborde said. “They took away our present, which was my aunt’s, and also our future.” The military dictatorship has destroyed many generations. “
It took years to generate a collective consciousness of what happened, and if there’s one thing that works against research, it’s now.
“There are very few grandmothers left,” Taranto said. “They are old and it is a feeling of great sadness and helplessness to see them leave there, without being able to find their grandchildren or the bodies of their children.”
‘Sense of freedom’
Taranto and Fossati, both 44, described having a sense of empowerment once they were able to find out who they really were.
Taranto met the two groups of dwarves before they died. “It’s not a cliché, but you feel a sense of freedom – I’m free to do what I want to do with my story,” said Taranto, whose late parents Cristian Adrian and Natalia Vanesa were members of the Revolutionary Party of Weather in Travagliadori.
In Fossati’s case, his mother was a member of the Secondary Student Union and his father was a member of the Peronist University Youth.
The couple who raised him had no ties to the army. One day in 1977 they received a call from a local midwife, who had a child who said she needed a home. Fossati understood to himself that he was not his biological child and sought answers once he became a father.
“What happened to me was not an adoption, but an appropriation,” he said.
He now runs a memorial space in La Plata outside a former clandestine detention center where his parents were held captive. It is also where he was born.
“I’ve come to learn that you don’t just inherit skin color, eye color or stature from your genes,” said Fossati, who almost named his own son Leonardo, the name he got. taken years later after he discovered it was what his mother had called him. “Other things are transmitted during a pregnancy.”
Doubts, he added, are also inherited – so he ordered anyone who could afford them to seek answers. “Time passes quickly, it’s worth overcoming your fears,” he said. “And it’s your right to know your identity.”
Anyone with doubts about their identity can contact Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo through their website.