Argentina’s Grandmothers of the Plaza of Mayo, dedicated to the search for children kidnapped or born to victims of forced disappearance under the last military dictatorship, presented the 120th refound grandchild on Wednesday, the latest relative to be identified and reunited with families separated in the darkest period of the country’s history.
Jose Luis Maulin Pratto came to learn his true identity in 2009 at the age of 32 after being stolen as a baby from his parents, who—unlike many of the parents of recuperated grandchildren—are still alive after suffering grave human rights abuses under the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
“This is another case of abduction, concealment, and falsification of a baby’s identity under the framework of state terrorism, like all our appropriated granddaughters and grandsons,” wrote the Grandmothers of the Plaza of Mayo in a statement Wednesday, adding that although the case had not been included in the organization’s registry, it has been added as an “act of reparation and historical truth” that the “events of genocide tried to erase and distort.”
After learning the truth about his family and his own story, Jose Luis wrote in a letter to judges overseeing his identity case last week that it has been an experience of “grief and misery to carry an identity that is not your own,” and that although the crime was committed in 1977, it “is repeated everyday.”
The man, whose parents Rubin Maulin and Luisa Pratto were abducted under the reign of state terror when his mother was four months pregnant, has decided to reclaim his true last name, the Grandmothers of the Plaza of Mayo explained in a statement.
Though Rubin and Luisa were not forcibly disappeared like most parents of the lost children the grandmothers search for, they were victims of torture and political persecution.
Luisa was tortured in front of their two other young children and raped on several occasions. When she gave birth, she was registered under a different name and her son, Jose Luis, was handed over to a couple linked to the Air Force. Ruben, on the other hand, was jailed as a political prisoner for six years before regaining his freedom in 1982.
Jose Luis’ grandmother, Ana Elena, took care of the older two siblings, helped Luisa in fighting first for her husband’s freedom and years later joined in the parents’ search for their stolen baby. Luisa had one hint to work with: the last name she had been falsely registered under when she gave birth to her son.
Jose Luis, meanwhile, had questions about his identity from an early age.
But it wasn’t until 2009, after various obstacles in the search, that Jose Luis responded to an announcement his mother made on the radio to tell her that he believed he was the missing son. They confirmed his identity through genetic testing and filed a case to reclaim his identity.
Unlike the majority of the 119 previously identified grandchildren, Jose Luis has been able to connect with his own biological parents in a relationship that the Grandmothers of the Plaza of Mayo say is “strengthened day after day.”
The Grandmothers and Mothers of the Plaza of Mayo, founded in 1977 to find children kidnapped and disappeared during Argentina’s dictatorship-era Dirty War, has a long history of fighting for truth and against injustice in Argentina. Many grandmothers searched for decades before being united with their grandchildren.
The organization estimates there are still hundreds of Argentine children of the dictatorship era, now adults, who do not know their true identities or families.