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Farewell to Angélica

Angélica Chimeno de Bauer is seen in a file photo.
By Luciana Bertoia
Herald Staff

Grandmother of Plaza de Mayo passed away yesterday, buried in Chacabuco

Grandmother of Plaza de Mayo Angélica Chimeno de Bauer passed away yesterday. Her remains were buried in Ayacucho, Buenos Aires province, as fellow Mothers and Grandmothers paid their respects to this life-long fighter.

Angélica was the grandmother of a girl born in the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA), which functioned as a concentration camp during the last dictatorship. The girl had opposed DNA testing and had even taken her case to the Supreme Court. To respect her right to privacy, a judge ordered an alternative method to obtain her DNA sample in order to determine if she was the baby born in the country’s most infamous clandestine detention centre.

Her grandmother always understood the difficulties of the process of recovery her granddaughter and looked forward to restoring the family ties that the dictatorship had severed.

Chemino de Bauer was a Mother of Plaza de Mayo, in spite of living kilometres away from Buenos Aires City. In Ayacucho, she was the representative of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo — the group headed by Estela Barnes de Carlotto — but was also a member of the Association of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo led by Hebe de Bonafini. Her dual membership in two organizations that were at odds permitted her to bypass several significant internal rifts in the human rights movement.

Angélica’s struggle began in June 1977 when her 23-year-old son Rubén Bauer was taken from the city of La Plata, where was studying to become an architect. Her 21-year-old pregnant daughter-in-law, Susana Pegoraro, was arrested on June 18 with her father at the Cons-titución railway station. Rubén and Susana were members of the left-wing armed organization Montoneros. Testimonies given by survivors of the concentration camps helped establish that Susana was taken to several secret detention centres. First, she was held at the Navy Base in Mar del Plata — her hometown — then taken to the facility known as “La Cacha” — next to the Olmos Penitentiary in La Plata — and finally to the ESMA where she gave birth to a baby girl she named Laura. Survivor Elisa Tokar was there when late repressor Héctor Febres asked Susana to write a letter addressed to her family, asking them to take care of the baby.

Laura was never given to the Bauers or the Pegoraros. She was raised in Mar del Plata by former Navy officer Luis Vázquez Policarpo and his wife Ana María Ferra. In 1998, a raid was ordered at the house and was Vázquez arrested. Evelin, the name her appropriators gave the child, refused to give a blood sample for the purpose of DNA testing. “I will not let you use my body to prosecute my parents,” she shouted at Judge María Romilda Servini de Cubría, who was investigating the case. Following several appeals, the issue was discussed by the country’s highest tribunal in 2003 before the judicial overhaul promoted by late former president Néstor Kirchner. Justices Carlos Fayt, Augusto Belluscio, Enrique Petracchi, Eduardo Moliné O’Connor, Antonio Boggiano, Guillermo López and Adolfo Vázquez agreed with Evelin’s request and said that the blood test would affect her right to privacy. The only member of the court who delivered a dissenting vote was Justice Juan Carlos Maqueda.

In a new chapter of the judicial system, her case was taken up again in 2008, when Servini de Cubría ordered a new raid at the flat where the young woman lived, which was located a few blocks from where she was born: the ESMA. Officers took a brush and underwear to extract the woman’s DNA. That year her real identity was confirmed.

Early this year, Laura Bauer Pegoraro appeared before the Federal Oral Court Number 5 — in charge of judging crimes committed at ESMA — for only 10 minutes to deliver her testimony.

“I don’t know when I was born. I decided not to receive information from my biological family. When I heard about my real identity, I had to deal with my dad’s detention,” Laura said, making reference to Vázquez who, along with his wife Ana María Ferra, were convicted in 2011 for Laura’s appropriation.

The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo yesterday recalled that Angélica had only met with her granddaughter a couple of times.

In 1998, when a person told Angélica that he had finally found Laura, she told the news to her other grandchildren.

— Is she going to live with us?

— No, I don’t think so. She is now a grown-up girl. But we’ll visit her often.

Restoring the ties that the genocidal process broke was not possible in this case. But the dream of meeting her granddaughter became a reality for Angélica.

@lucianabertoia

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