37 years, 12 women, 5 grandchildren
Seven founding members or their families continue search for babies snatched during dictatorship
Alicia “Licha” Zubasnabar de De la Cuadra’s missing granddaughter, Ana Libertad, has recovered her real identity. Licha, who passed away in 2008, was the first president of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo but she started her epic struggle along with eleven other women who were trying to find their loved ones. Some of the founding members of the association, such as María Isabel “Chicha” Chorobik de Mariani and Mirta Acuña de Baravalle, are still looking for their grandchildren.
Chicha Mariani was told by a judicial official not to continue her search alone. “There is another woman looking for her grandchild. You should see her,” she told the desperate woman whose daughter-in-law, Diana Teruggi, was killed in an attack on her house in the city of La Plata on November 24, 1976. Her baby of three months, Clara Anahí, was snatched then. As she told the Herald, Chicha had some doubts but then she phoned Licha de la Cuadra and she visited her at her home in La Plata. They spoke for hours about how the dictatorship-era repression had ruined their lives. Licha had a son and a daughter abducted by the death squads and two sons-in-law and she was looking for Ana Libertad, the baby that her daughter Elena had given birth to on June 16, 1977 at the police station number 5 in the city of La Plata.
Mirta Baravalle was one of the founders of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. Her 28-year-old daughter Ana María Baravalle, who was kidnapped with her husband Julio César Galizzi on August, 27 1976 from their home in San Martín, Buenos Aires province. Ana María was pregnant when she was abducted.
In November 1977, US president Jimmy Carter sent his Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, to Argentina to monitor the human rights situation in the country. Mirta was in Plaza de Mayo demonstrating with other women when she started saying. “Is your daughter or your daughter-in-law pregnant?” She gathered a group of them and told them to go to San Martín square to meet Vance in order to given their reports with their children’s cases. On November 21, a group of women with missing grandchildren met there — under a Jacaranda tree — and founded the Grandmothers with Disappeared Grandchildren.
The other founders
Delia Cecilia Giovanela de Califano arrived at the square, walking a dog. She was pretending to be a neighbour. Her son, Jorge Ogando, and her daughter-in-law, Stella Maris Montesano were abducted in October, 1976. They had a little girl, Virginia, who was raised by her grandmother Delia. Stella Maris gave birth to a baby boy on December 5, whom she named Martín. Delia and Virginia looked for Martín — who was born at the clandestine detention centre known as Pozo de Banfield, which also operated as a clandestine maternity ward during those dark years. Virginia committed suicide in 2011. Delia is still looking for him.
Eva Márquez Castillos Barrios was another of the women who gathered at San Martín square. She had two missing daughters, Alicia and Liliana. The latter was pregnant and was abducted along with her husband Héctor Rafael Ovejero in 1977.
Haydée Lemos was a housewife. Her daughter, Mónica, and her husband Gustavo Lavalle were kidnapped in July 1977. They were held at the Investigations Brigade in San Justo, Buenos Aires province, and then transferred to Pozo de Banfield, where Mónica gave birth to María José, who was restituted her real identity in the 1980s.
Beatriz Aicardi de Neuhaus was also there on November 21, 1977. She was looking for her daughter Beatriz and her husband Juan Francisco Martinis, who were abducted in 1976 in Ramos Mejía, in the western part of Greater Buenos Aires. Beatriz was pregnant.
Vilma Gutiérrez was another founding member. She was looking for her son Oscar Rómulo Gutiérrez and her daughter-in-law Liliana Isabel Acuña, who were abducted on August 26, 1976 by a group of armed civilians. The couple was taken to a police station number 4 in San Isidro, in northern Greater Buenos Aires. A police officer told Liliana’s grandmother that her daughter-in-law gave birth to a baby girl in December 1976 or perhaps a month later in San Martín. Vilma’s granddaughter recovered her real identity in February this year but her grandmother had already passed away.
Leontina Puebla de Pérez was also there, looking for her son-in-law, José Pérez, and her daughter María Hilda Pérez, who was abducted in March, 1977. Hilda was pregnant and was taken to the infamous Navy Mechanics School (ESMA) to give birth to a baby she named Victoria. The baby-girl was snatched by an ESMA repressor, Juan Antonio Azic, but Victoria recovered her real identity in 2004 and now the sitting Broad Front UNEN lawmaker is expecting her first baby.
Clara Jurado also met the rest of the women at the square. She was looking for her son, Carlos María Rogerone, and her daughter-in-law, Mónica Susana Masri. Both of them were abducted in 1977 and seen by survivors at the Campo de Mayo garrison in Buenos Aires province, which also operated as a clandestine maternity ward.
Raquel de Marrizcurrena was looking for her son, Andrés, and her daughter-in-law, Beatriz Caimi. Beatriz was 20 years old and she was pregnant. They were abducted in November 1976. They were planning to name their baby Pablo Ernesto. It is thought they were held at the Campo de Mayo garrison.
María Eugenia Casinelli de García Irureta Goyena was also there. She was looking for her daughter, Claudia García Irureta Goyena, and her son-in-law Marcelo Gelman, poet Juan Gelman’s son. Claudia and Marcelo were abducted in August 1976 and taken to the clandestine detention centre known as Automotores Orletti. Marcelo was killed. In 1989, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) found his remains. Claudia was taken to Uruguay, where she gave birth to a baby girl. Macarena Gelman recovered her identity in 2000 but her grandmother María Eugenia had already passed away.
Last Saturday, August 16, was Clara Anahí Mariani Teruggi’s birthday and her grandmother Chicha decided to celebrate it. She wrote 38 messages for her granddaughter. Thirty-eight balloons were released. Mirta Baravalle was with her. She is still searching for Camila or Ernesto, her daughter Ana María’s baby born in a clandestine detention centre.
Chicha was glad to know that her friend Licha’s granddaughter recovered her identity on Friday. “I beg people to give us information. We need to find them,” she said in conversation with the Herald. Around 400 children are still missing. The clock is ticking.