Buenos Aires, Argentina – When he was a child growing up in the city of La Plata in the 1980s, Leonardo Fossati looked in the mirror and thought reality was on the other side.
It was a game the little boy played. He felt like he was living in a movie and that there was something in his own life that he couldn’t see. Years later, he would come to understand the game as much more: a demonstration, among other things, that there was more to its history.
In fact, his story was completely different. The people who raised him were not his biological parents and a DNA test in 2005 determined that he was one of his The stolen grandchildren of Argentina: babies who were born in captivity during the military dictatorship that terrorized the country from 1976 to 1983 and who were given to other families to raise them.
It is estimated that his parents, Ines Beatriz Ortega and Rubén Leonardo Fossati, are 30,000 people missing by security forces during this period and the remains of which have never been recovered.
“No matter how much, the truth always creates a solid foundation for continuing with your life,” he said.
That Fossati and others like him know the truth is thanks to the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a women’s organization that defied a shroud of silence over Argentina during the dictatorship and marched weekly demanding to know what happened to their children and missing grandchildren.
To date, the identities of 130 people have been restored through DNA testing. But the search continues for about 300 more, and an attempt is made to make a new campaign take advantage of COVID-19 vaccines to assist in this task.
“Help us find you”
Abuelas asks people that, at the age of 40, the age group corresponding to their grandchildren be vaccinated in Argentina. post photos of your blows on social media with the hashtag #UnaDosisDeIdentidad (A dose of identity).
The publications are accompanied by a text urging all those born between 1975 and 1980 and who have doubts about their identity to contact the organization, which constantly presents new ways to keep the search alive.
“We saw it as an opportunity because in a short period of time, the grandchildren we are looking for will be vigilant because they will be vaccinated,” said Belen Altamiranda Taranto, the 88th identified grandson, who now works with Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo in the city of Córdoba.
This year, the government also launched a campaign aimed at Argentines living abroad under the banner “Argentina Te Busca”: Argentina is looking for you. Several people have discovered their true identities after moving abroad as adults to the Netherlands, the United States and Spain. Others were found at a younger age in Chile and Uruguay.
“Help us find you,” Foreign Minister Felipe Sola said in a video message directing people to contact an Argentine consulate to ask questions.
Barbarities of the dictatorship
That so many grandchildren remain unexplained speaks of the pact of silence that remains among those who committed atrocities.
With the aim of eradicating left-wing rebels, security forces launched a wide-ranging state terrorism campaign that eliminated political dissidents, students, activists, union activists, journalists and many more.
People were taken from the street, tortured, murdered, thrown planes into the river below or buried in unmarked graves during the dictatorship period. Young women who were pregnant at the time of her disappearance gave birth in clandestine detention centers and their babies were placed in the homes of families who supported the military or with other people who did not ask questions about their origins. of children.
These were not isolated incidents, but a systematic plan for the appropriation of minors that constituted a crime against humanity, according to an Argentine court in 2012. More than 1,000 people have been convicted for their roles in that dark period.
Initiatives such as the Una Dosis campaign offer some hope to people like Anna Carriquiriborde, 41, whose aunt Gabriela Carriquiriborde disappeared in 1976 in La Plata. Her family is looking for her baby, born in captivity in December of that year.
Witnesses say the baby was a child, Carriquiriborde said, although a woman believed to be Gabriela’s daughter is currently awaiting the results of a DNA test. Two more people also suspected they were Gabriela’s son, but they turned negative.
“Obviously, I really want to meet my cousin,” said Carriquiriborde, who lives in La Plata but was born and raised in Sweden, who provided political asylum to his parents who fled the dictatorship. “We talk about it all the time to the family. We would be very happy to find the end of this story.
The discovery would be especially important to his father, he said; Like her missing sister, she was a member of the Peronist University Youth, the university wing of the Peronist political party, and was guilty of what happened to her.
“I think it’s very nefarious and to have kept them captive to get their kids out,” Carriquiriborde said. “They took away our present, which was my aunt, and also our future. The military dictatorship destroyed many generations. “
It has taken years to generate a collective consciousness of what happened and, if there’s anything that works against the search, it’s time.
“There are few grandmothers left,” Taranto said. “They are very old and it is a feeling of great sadness and helplessness to see them leave us, without being able to find their grandchildren or their children’s bodies.”
“Sense of freedom”
Taranto and Fossati, both 44, described the feeling of empowerment once they were able to find out who they really were.
Taranto met the two sets of grandparents before he 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 missing parents, Cristian Adrian and Natalia Vanesa, were members of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party.
In the case of Fossati, his mother was part 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 military. One day in 1977 they received a call from a local midwife, who had a baby saying she needed a home. Fossati discovered on his own that he was not his biological son 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 of a former clandestine detention center where his parents were detained. It is also where he was born.
“I’ve learned that you don’t just inherit skin color, eye color, or the stature of your genes,” said Fossati, who almost named his own son Leonardo, the name he assumed years later in discovering that it was what his mother had given him his name. “Other things are transmitted during pregnancy.”
He added that doubts are also inherited, so he urged anyone who could welcome 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 May through their website.