‘I feel happy with the truth’
Carlotto’s grandson says restitution is ‘a small victory in the middle of an enormous defeat’As if trying to make sure she was not in the middle of a dream, Estela Barnes de Carlotto at one point stopped talking and reached out to touch the 36-year-old man who was sitting next to her in the middle of the press conference yesterday at the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo headquarters in downtown Buenos Aires. The man was the baby her late daughter Laura gave birth to in 1978 while she was in captivity during the country’s brutal military dictatorship — and the reason for Estela’s epic struggle.
“I’m extremely happy. I know I am the reason why many people are happy,” the 36-year-old musician said two minutes after his proud grandmother said it was not her time to speak and that she only wanted to thank God for the recovery.
On Tuesday, Estela heard the piece of news that she had waited more than three decades to hear. A DNA test proved that a musician that had contacted Grandmothers and the National Commission for the Right to Identity (CONADI) was the treasure she had been looking for since she knew that her 23-year-old daughter was pregnant before she was killed.
“I am back in the place I should have never left,” he said as his relatives sobbed. “This is a small victory in the middle of an enormous defeat.”
“Everything is too recent,” he said, making it clear that his head was still spinning from the news that turned his life upside-down. “Maybe my situation can help other people with doubts on their identities to start searching and that can help to heal the wounds,” he added. Estela, who on Tuesday — when she announced the discovery had many words to utter — was mostly silent yesterday, looking on in amazement.
The man, a well-known pianist from the city of Olavarría, opened up the press conference to journalists — the doubts were immediate.
— Shall I call you Guido?
— I am Ignacio.
“Guido,” murmured Estela next to him. “Guido” has been the name that has marked her struggle. That was the name her eldest daughter, Laura, picked for the baby she only had in her arms for five hours.
Laura and her boyfriend, Jorge Montoya, were members of the left-wing armed organization Montoneros. When Laura was abducted by a death squad in the city of La Plata on November 26, 1977, Carlotto did not know that her daughter was pregnant and she did not know her boyfriend.
“What I enjoy most is the happiness of others,” the man said. “I’m glad to be a member of this family,” he added, surrounded by his aunt Claudia and his uncles Remo and Guido “Kibo” Carlotto. Next to him was his girlfriend Celeste.
“I knew some things about Grandmothers but now I am learning many others that I did not know,” he said. His 83-year-old grandmother and his uncles know that his identity is something that he will have to construct piece by piece.
“Two days ago I discovered who I am,” he repeated.
News, good news
On Tuesday, he received a phone call from a woman in shock. She was Claudia Carlotto, the CONADI head, but also his aunt. “You are my nephew,” she said between tears.
“I did not understand what she was saying. She was too excited,” Ignacio said, trying to repeat her words in jest.
Then it was time for reunion. A couple of hours after Estela announced that the discovery of her grandson, he texted his aunt to say that he was willing to meet his grandmother.
“I wanted to be Estela’s grandson. I wanted to be one of those in the top-ten ranking of restituted grandchildren,” he joked. On Wednesday, he met Estela, “Kibo”, Claudia and Remo. A day later he met his cousins and yesterday it was time to hug his other grandmother, Hortensia Arduro, and his uncle Jorge Montoya, who live in Santa Cruz province. During the previous days, he took some time to see some pictures.
“It was shocking to see how much I look like to my father,” he acknowledged. “I’ve been living in a car since Tuesday.”
He also met with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who had called Carlotto on Tuesday to celebrate the news.
“It was weird that she was talking to me,” he said. “A person that I see on TV,”
Since his identity was leaked to the media he left Olavarría — first to meet his relatives but also to dodge media harassment — but he said he was willing to go back.
“I had a happy childhood. I had a family who gave me love and affection,” he said, evidently careful not to give too many details about the case.
“On June 2, I learned that I was an adopted son. It was a peculiar birthday,” Barnes de Carlotto’s grandson added. In fact, he was not born on June 2 as his identity card says. Laura gave birth to him on June 26, 1978. His name, his date of birth, everything was changed in an attempt to erase his real identity.
“I had some doubts. Things I could not explain. Butterflies,” he explained. “But I had an extraordinary life. A happy life. Now I am part of this story.” Ignacio — Guido for the Carlottos — said.
“I did not understand why I had a passion for music. Now it makes sense.” His uncle “Kibo” wanted to be a musician. He left his dreams and his guitar behind when persecution started in the late 1970s and he had to leave the country. His cousin, Juano Falcone, is the member of a rock band and wrote a song for him titled Five hours, making reference to the time Laura held her baby in her arms before the repressors took him away.
Ignacio did not make reference to the couple who raised him but it was reported that they worked as farmhands for Carlos Francisco “Pancho” Aguilar, a well-known farm owner in Olavarría, who passed away in March. It is believed that he was the person who gave the baby boy to the couple but that is something Judge Servini de Cubría will have to investigate.
“I’m glad now,” the man said. “I was afraid of never being able to find my real parents. Now, I’ll have to tie up loose ends.” He is trying to find some explanations to some of his doubts, he admitted. “I am an artist and that’s a political activity. I dream of a better world,” he said.
On her daughter’s grave, Estela swore to find her grandson. She kept her promise. She also vowed to tell him about her mother’s ideas and dreams, that is what she will now have to do.