I want to touch you and kiss you. You are my mother's sister and only one year older; you must have something of my mother in you. A found child after being returned to her family

The Grandmothers used a simple approach to gain information about I the disappeared grandchildren: they appealed to the conscience and; ethical sense of the general public to help them in their work. In April 1982, for the first time in Argentina, a list with the names of the children published by CLAMOR appeared in one of the main Buenos Aires newspapers. The publication of the list, whose signatories called for information to be provided about the children, had a secondary purpose: to show the Argentine military that the Grandmothers had the support of one of the most respected institutions on the continent, the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo. Hundreds of people called the Grandmothers' office, offering information and suggestions. The "established doctrine" of separating the children from their families (see chapter 3) was, in some cases, too much even for the repressors. A survivor from the camps reported that a member of the military, after abducting a young couple, disobeyed orders and left their small child with the janitor of the building where they lived. Elsa Oesterheld, a Grandmother of the Plaza de Mayo whose husband was a well-known writer, confirmed that "exceptions" occurred:

The police went to my oldest daughter's house. She was not at home and they took her son, Martin, three and a half years old. The orders had been to disappear the child also, to turn him into a NN, but the man in charge of the operation admired my husband and did not follow the orders. He took the child to my husband who was then in prison. My husband gave him my parent's address and asked him to bring the child to them. That is how I recovered Martin.

In 1983, with the return of democracy, the Grandmothers launched a campaign designed to recruit the support of the Argentine people. The Grandmothers plastered the city with posters and distributed thou- sands of leaflets with the children's pictures. Radio and TV spots high- lighted the search for the missing children, while newspaper and magazines ran story after story. By 1997 the Grandmothers' Association had received over 8,000 anonymous tips and pieces of information: fifty- eight children had been identified, thirty-one were reunited with their biological families, thirteen stayed with their adoptive parents, eight children were found murdered, and six cases were in the courts.


Identifying the children is the first step in the laborious process of reuniting the children with their families. The Grandmothers see this reunion as an act of truth, a vuelta a la vida (return to life) that will restore to them their proper identity, allowing them to grow up without secrets or lies. The Grandmothers often equate the condition of the children living under false identities with slavery. Although Argentina abolished slavery in 1813, the women point out that there are hundreds of Argentine children currently living with people who separated them from their legitimate families and who hide from them their origins and their history. The Grandmothers use the term "restitution " to describe the process of reunifying the children with their families of origin. Restitution is not simply an act by which a child meets with her or his family. It is a complex process requiring attention at all levels: individual, familial, and social. Estela de Catlotto remembers crying when the first restitution, that of Paola Logares, took place. During her childhood Estela had been temporarily separated from her mother, and she recalled the anguish she had felt. She sympathized with Paola's initial negative reaction. But then

I realized that my situation had been different. My mother was truly my mother, while in the case of Paola, she was being separated from those who had stolen her and hidden her history from her. My initial reaction was the conventional one, to say 'poor little ones," we may be hurting them; but as we later learned. the separation of the found children from the perpetrators does not create a second trauma.

Very little was known in the early 198os about the dynamics of restitution and its possible effects on the children. To their credit, the Grand- mothers always insisted that extreme caution be used in making decisions that affected the living arrangements of the found children.

Accordingly, the Grandmothers worked with psychologists, physicians, ; and lawyers to create an interdisciplinary team that would enable them ; to deal with the multifaceted, complex process. Working with these professionals has helped them establish the best possible conditions for the healthy psychosocial development of the found children.

The Grandmothers point out that these children have not been abandoned: they have been illegally appropriated, and they carry in their psyches the traumas of their kidnapping and of their mothers' torture. The Grandmothers believe that to heal from this trauma, the children need to return to their "ecological nests," so that they can grow up with the love and security that their legitimate families offer them. However, they also believe that when the children were adopted in good faith by families not involved in the repression, it is possible to fashion an extended family that will benefit all involved. Grandmother Reina Esses de Waisberg explains her views on the restitution process:

If I find my grandson or my granddaughter and he has been with a decent couple who adopted him without knowing that he was the child of disappeared. I will let the child stay with them. I would want us to visit and the child has to know that he has a sister, that he has a biological family and that his parents did not throw him away. But if he is with a couple who participated in the repression, I will fight until my last breath to have my grandchild come and live with US.

Her granddaughter, Tania, was fifteen months old when her parents were abducted; her mother was two months pregnant. She was left in the streets with Reina's name and telephone number attached to her. Tania, now twenty years old, believes that

Restitution is obviously a very difficult process, but is necessary. The truth about one's origins is essential. If one is lied to about that, how can one believe anything else one is told? I asked my grandmother to join the Grand- mothers because what they are doing is so important and I wanted some- body from my family to work with them. If my sister or brother ever appears, I know that it will not be easy. I will probably start by telling him or her about everyday things, simple things, and about the other grandparents who have already died.

Many misconceptions have arisen about what the process means. Chicha Mariani explains:

Many people believe that we have been searching for the children to bring them to our homes, as if we had "won" something. In contrast, I have always thought of restitution as a return to the children of what is rightfully theirs. Not restitution of the children to us but an offering to the children of what is theirs. Each case is different because each child is in a different situation. In our early days, we had several children who were reunited with their families without the intervention of the judicial system. And it worked fine. We spoke with the families, we encouraged them to work things out between themselves, keeping in mind the best interests of the child. Other times the judges intervened, but it was a very low-key and simple procedure. If the family was not involved in the repression, the simplest and safest approach was to get together and talk things over.

The case of Tamara Arze provides an example of "talking things over." In 1975, two-year-old Tamara was left with neighbors after her mother, Rosa Mery Riveros, was kidnapped by the police. Although Rosa Mery repeatedly asked about the fate of her daughter, she was denied any information. In 1981 she was freed and she went into exile in Switzerland. From there, she contacted the Grandmothers and asked them to search for her daughter. As a result of their investigation the Grandmothers found the child in 1983. The family that had taken care of Tamara had told the child, when she was six years old, that she was not their daughter. When the Grandmothers approached them, the family agreed, with sadness and after extensive discussion, that if the child's mother was alive, Tamara should be with her. Rosa Mery sent a cassette to Tamara telling her what had happened and explaining that she had not abandoned her, that they had been forcefully separated, and that she had tried to find her. After a lengthy telephone conversation, Tamara, then nine years old, declared that she wanted to live with her mother. The Grandmothers took Tamara to Lima, Peru, where she met Rosa Mery. Chicha Mariani recalls:

I witnessed the meeting between Tamara and her mother and the first few days of Tamara in that new situation. ...From that moment we started to realize that the restitution of the children was not merely an act of justice. The most important thing was what we could give back to Tamara. ... Tamara's mother told us that the first night, after playing with her and giving her a bath, she put her to bed. While Tamara was sleeping and while she caressed her hair, she smelled an odor that felt strangely familiar. It took her fifteen minutes to discover, surprised, that it was the smell that newborn babies have after being breast-fed by their mothers.9

The child understood the complexity of her situation clearly, commenting, "What happens is that I have two families, my own family and the family that raised me."10 The family that raised her gave Tamara a big bouquet of flowers for Rosa Mery, as a sign of their desire to establish a meaningful connection with her. While living in Europe, Tamara still manages to visit and remain in touch with her family in Argentina.

In an effort to make Argentine society understand the process, the Grandmothers organized public education sessions. In a 1988 conference on the disappeared children and restitution, they addressed their opponents. With what seems to be only the best of intentions, some critics promote a "hands-off" policy of leaving the children where they are-"so that they don't suffer"-that in effect turns the victims into victimizers. They claim that if the children seem happy and well- adjusted, taking them away from their adoptive families amounts to a "second trauma...11 This facile, reductive view greatly concerns the Grandmothers because it ignores the suffering that was inflicted by the kidnappings and assigns no blame to the appropriators. Most of all, such an approach errs in focusing on the children only in the present moment, as if history had not happened-as if their situation had not begun with a crime that has grave implications for their future and their rights.

The concept of "psychosocial trauma " developed by Ignacio Martin-Baro can help us understand the restitution process. He believed that when an injury that affects people has been produced, nourished, and maintained through a certain set of social relations, then individual solutions are not effective. The social context responsible for the injury has to be taken into account. A new "social contract" to heal the trauma is needed, incorporating individual and sociopolitical factors into the equation. In the case of the disappeared children, their loss of identity represents a trauma affecting not only their individual lives but also their relationship with society. For this relationship to be restored, the social distortions that took place need to be exposed. Restitution brings into focus the trauma's social dimension, as it provides the wider context for each individual story. Truth and justice must be part of the picture, if the children are to construct a meaningful future for them- selves as individuals and as members of society.


When a child has been found, the Grandmothers begin with negotia- tions between the two families; but if those discussions reach a dead end, then the judicial system becomes involved. Legal proof of the chil- dren's identity is needed to settle the disagreement and decide on their future. Many of Argentina's current judges were appointed during the repression, and in the Grandmothers' experience, they have seldom behaved fairly and professionally. With few exceptions, the procedures drag on and frequently bog down in minutiae, leading to long delays before any kind of resolution is achieved.

Often judges have disqualified themselves from the cases or adopted a passive attitude. The general attitude of the judiciary can be deduced from an internal memo leaked to the press in which Dr. Augusto Cesar Belluscio, a member of the Argentine Supreme Court, criticized the restitution of a child to her family of origin, calling the process a "brainwashing operation worthy of the Muscovite psychiatric establishment." Belluscio also asserted that the child's relationship with the adoptive family was more important than her biological affiliation.

In several cases, the judicial delays allowed the kidnappers to go underground or to escape to other countries with the children. Carla Rutila Artes and her mother, Graciela, were imprisoned in a clandestine detention camp in 1976. While the child's mother is still missing, in 1983 the Grandmothers were able to locate the child: she was living under a false identity with Eduardo Alfredo Ruffo, a member of the sinister SIDE and one of the most sadistic torturers at the detention camp where the two had been taken. When Ruffo realized that he had been found, he used his police connections to go underground with his wife and Carla. Hundreds of posters with their pictures, plastered in the streets of Buenos Aires, called for the citizens to help in the search. When Ruffo was finally arrested, he was carrying a false passport that would have enabled him to take Carla out of the country. Carla was eventually returned to her grandmother.

In a February 1986 meeting with President Alfonsin, the Grandmothers delivered a set of demands that addressed the delays and obstacles they were encountering in their legal work and the consequences of these delays for the children's mental and physical well-being. One particularly lengthy case that achieved international notoriety was that of Ximena Vicario. Under the headline " Adoption Dispute in Argentina," a calculatedly sensational photograph of Ximena Vicario crying in the arms of her adoptive mother, Susana Siciliano, appeared in a U.S. newspaper. The text accompanying the photo grossly oversimplified the facts. Ximena, who had been abducted with her mother when she was nine months old, was subsequently left in an orphanage with a tag saying "My name is Ximena Vicario and I am the daughter of guerri//eros." The Grandmothers located her in 1983. She had been illegally adopted by Siciliano, who worked in the institution where she had been left. Ximena's grandmother proposed to Siciliano that they come to an agreement by which both would be involved in raising the child, but Siciliano refused. In 1987, four years after she was located, genetic testing established her origin and the judges ordered the child restituted to her family. Siciliano was charged with hiding the true identity of the child and providing false information in the adoption proceedings.

For the next nine months, Ximena lived with her maternal grand- mother, reestablishing the connection with her family. However, the "adoptive" mother, with the support of influential members of the press, launched a media campaign to recover the child and appealed to the Supreme Court. In 1989 the Court issued a ruling based on an antiquated law by which grandparents or other relatives could not be par- ties in disputes regarding a child's custody. The lawyer appointed to represent the child-Dr. Carlos Tavares, who had been General Videla's defense lawyer in the trial of the ex-commanders-recommended that Ximena be returned to Siciliano, but the child's expressed desires and her family's model behavior led the judges to agree to let Ximena stay with her grandmother. Nevertheless, Siciliano was given weekly visitation rights under police surveillance; during those visits, she constantly denigrated Ximena's parents. Ximena, then fourteen years old, wrote to the judge in charge of her case, listing twelve reasons why she did not want to see Siciliano any more. Among them, she noted that Siciliano had lied to her about her origins and had attempted more than once to take her out of the country. The case reached an impasse. Left without other recourse, the Grandmothers brought the case to the UN Human Rights Commission to alert the international human rights community that the rights of the child and her family were being violated. Only in 1991, eight years after the Grandmothers had located the child, did a judge finally annul the adoption and make it possible for Ximena to recover her history, her identity, and her real name.


"I No Longer Hide What Happened to Me"
In October 1977, four-year-old Tatiana Ruarte Britos and her three- month-old sister, Laura Malena Jotar Britos, were kidnapped along with their parents. The police denied this, claiming they had found the children abandoned on the street. Even though Tatiana knew her full name and the name of her sister, the children were separated, sent to two different orphanages, and labeled NN. No efforts were made to find their family. After six months a judge gave provisional custody of the younger child to a married, childless couple, Ines and Carlos Sfiligoy. When the couple found out the child had a sister, they applied and obtained custody of her, too, thinking it inhumane that the children be separated.

But the Sfiligoy family soon began to suspect the true nature of the adoption. Tatiana had mentioned that her mother, sobbing and with her head covered by a hood, had been taken away by a group of "mean men. " They contacted the judge to inquire about the origins of the children, but he dismissed their concerns. In 1980 the Grandmothers, who had been investigating the case, convinced the judge to arrange for a meeting between one of the grandmothers and the children. Tatiana Sfiligoy, now twenty years old, remembers the meeting:

I was seven years old.I recognized my grandmother. but I acted like I didn't. When I met my other grandmother. again. I acted like I did not recognize her. Naturally. she got very upset. As a small child I had spent lots of time with her. It must have been horrible for her. I did it because I did not want to be uprooted again. I was happy with my parents and all of a sudden this! So, I said: No, not again. That is why I denied knowing her.

When I was eleven years old I started to worry about what would happen if my real parents appeared. What if I ended up having four parents~ Finally.1 said to myself.' will live with the four of them!

The adoptive parents in this case were exceptionally caring. They had told the children that they were adopted and, concerned with their welfare, wanted them to learn their history. When the children's family was found, the Sfiligoys' open and friendly attitude defused a potentially explosive situation. They opened their home to the biological family. The children visited their grandmothers and met their cousins, aunts, and uncles. They learned about their kidnapping and about the disappearance of their parents. The two grandmothers agreed to let the children stay with the adoptive parents, and a warm extended family was established. The adoptive family displayed remarkable wisdom. When Tatiana was in the seventh grade and her teacher told Ines Sfiligoy that Tatiana should never tell in school what had happened to her, Ines's reaction was to immediately change schools. Living with a secret had been a burden for Tatiana:

I no longer hide what happened to me. When Estela de Carlot to came to my school to give a talk, they asked me if that was OK with me, and I said yes. At a certain point, Estela said: "Here is Tatiana. she will tell you about herself." I started to talk in front of everybody. Maybe it was a bit theatrical, but for me it was the best that could have ever happened. It helped me untie the knot that I was carrying. The longer you hide something. the worse it gets, and a lot of time had gone by and it was becoming really difficult for me.

I know I have made a hard choice, wanting to know the full truth. But I believe that is how it has to be. I cannot deny what happened to me. I have to say what I think, even when others react badly. We make choices in life. My choice was a difficult one, but I prefer a harsh truth to a lie.

Tatiana started to work with the Grandmothers, gathering data on the families of the disappeared children and registering them with the National Genetic Data Bank: "The Grandmothers need help and I want to work with them because what they are doing is so important and because it is part of my life. " Sadly, Tatiana and Laura Malena's story is "A typical. Their adoptive parents were not part of the repressive regime responsible for the disappearances: they were adopted in good faith, and their adoptive parents cared deeply for their psychic health. The Sfiligoys believed in the children's right to know their origins and even tried to instill in them respect for their disappeared parents, who had displayed such commitment to their beliefs. Unfortunately, most of the children identified since then have been in the hands of people who had taken an active role in the repression and who refused to let the children learn about their history and identity.

"She Had My Son's Hair and She Walked Just Like Him, As If on Clouds"

Elena Santander's son, Alfredo Moyano, and his Uruguayan wife, Maria Asuncion Artigas, were abducted from their home in Buenos Aires in December 1977. Marla Asuncion was two months pregnant. Elena recalls:

I had not heard from my son for the last two or three days and that was odd. I was unable to find any news about them for years. One day, the Grand- mothers received information from Argentine exiles in Canada saying that they had seen my son and daughter-in-Iaw in the camp and that she had delivered a baby girl. They sent me a cassette with all the details of the birth, how much she weighed, what name they had given her, the whole story. In 1987, ten years later, a woman approached the Grandmothers. She was a teacher in a school where my granddaughter was enrolled. She reported that there was something strange about one of her students, that she seemed different from the others, a troubled child. The investigative team went to work on the case. The blood tests showed that she was my grand- daughter. She had been registered as the daughter of a couple related to the chief of the camp where my son had been imprisoned. The man had died but his wife, the "mother," had the child. At first. she kept insisting that Maria Victoria was her daughter, but she finally confessed.

The judge then asked me to go to the court, where the restitution would take place. They sent me to a floor above. I saw her from there when she came in. She had my son's hair, and she walked just like him, as if on clouds. It was December 31, ten years after the kidnapping. The judge introduced me and the other grandmother.I felt sorry for the girl, she did not know what to do. She gave us a kiss, I caressed her.

When I took her home, she cried, she kicked, she did not want to eat. She asked to see her "mother." I told her that she needed to bring that up to the judge. He was adamant about not letting her see the "adoptive" mother. Clearly, she felt affection for the woman, but afterward, when she found out the truth, she did not want to see her anymore. She had been told that her mother had died in childbirth and that her father had abandoned her.

Maria Victoria stayed with me for three months, and then her maternal grandmother said that she wanted the child to live with her. That was OK with me, if Maria Victoria agreed, which she did. So she is now living in Uruguay.1 see her every three months. Whenever I can, I go to see her.

I hope that we keep finding the children who were taken from us. Some people have asked me, "Why do you keep at it. you already found your granddaughter~" I continue because I want to help others recover their family, their history. As the Grandmothers get older. some get sick, others die. It is more important than ever that we find the missing children. I will keep doing whatever I can, for me and for the others. until my last day.

"The Child Is Too Beautiful. You Will Not Get Her Back "

That is what Elsa Pav6n de Aguilar was told by her brother-in-law, a policeman, when she was looking for her granddaughter Paula Eva Logares Grinspon. Elsa's daughter, son-in-law, and twenty-three- month-old granddaughter were kidnapped in Uruguay in May 1978. According to Elsa,

A couple that was living with them called my son-in-Iaw's father and told him what had happened. I knew nothing about disappearances. I thought people could be murdered or arrested. but disappeared~ I did not have any idea that people could literally disappear, leaving no trace. I started looking for the three of them, until I realized that when I mentioned the adults even priests were hostile. When I mentioned the child. people paid attention

Elsa's strategy changed. Thinking that if she could find information about the child she might unravel the thread that might lead to the parents, she started to look for her granddaughter. During one of her visits to a juvenile court five months .1fter the disappearance, she met four Grandmothers who were involved in a similar search. Soon afterward she joined the organization. Elsa left her job as a laboratory technician to dedicate herself full-time to the search for her granddaughter:

My brother-in-law said, "The child is too beautiful. You will not get her back. It is useless." My husband kept saying. "Enough. this is enough. You are destroying yourself." I did get quite sick and collapsed with a bad infection. At my lowest point, I said to myself,"1 cannot let this happen. If I die, who will look for them. The three of them will be lost forever." The fever quickly disappeared.

In 1980 the Grandmothers received from CLAMOR pictures and information about the whereabouts of a child who looked like Paula. Chicha Mariani was immediately convinced that the child was Paula. As they started to follow the clues, they kept an eye on the child and the suspected family, until unexpectedly the family moved, leaving no trace. Three years later, thanks to the posters of the children that covered the streets of Buenos Aires, there was another tip. A man seeking revenge on the kidnapper revealed the identity of the family with whom Paula was living. The Grandmothers began their investigation anew. Again, Elsa speaks:

I would stand in the door of her school. I would go near her house and do my shopping there. I tried to become part of the scene so that the neighbors and the store owners would get to know me and think that I lived in the neighborhood. I did not dare talk to her or touch her. My sister-in-Iaw accompanied me; she is very talkative and she established a good connection with her. I asked my husband to come and look at her. He agreed. yes, that was Paula. He established a nice rapport with her. and she would look at him with a longing expression.

The Grandmothers found that the alleged father, Ruben Lavallen, who had been the police chief of the unit where Paula and her parents had been imprisoned, had registered her shortly after the kidnapping as being born in October 1977. This made her almost one and a half years younger than her real age (Paula was born in June 1976). Another attempt to make Paula disappear for a second time was thwarted by lucky chance, as Elsa explains:

The lawyer working on Paula's case ran into a friend she had not seen in a long while and was invited to her apartment. This friend had a daughter who was very sad: the little girl who lived on the first floor had come to say good-bye because she was leaving the country. That little girl was Paula. The lawyer was able to stop Paula from being taken abroad.

The procedure used to convince the judicial system of Paula 's identity was long and complicated. There was a considerable discrepancy between her age as judged from X rays of her bones and the age reported by her grandmother. The X-ray data indicated her age approximately as that of a six-year-old, but her grandmother claimed she was seven and a half years old. When genetic testing became available in 1984, it determined with 99.95 percent probability that Paula was Elsa 's grandchild. However, the judge in charge of the case rejected the claim. Elsa appealed to a higher court. She went to the court accompanied by her husband and her son, whose presence made a crucial difference in a judicial system pervaded by sexism:

They looked at me differently because I was accompanied by my husband and my son. I was no longer a crazy woman from the Plaza de Mayo. I was with two men: my son, who is a big teddy bear, and my husband, who looks like a very serious and respectable man. That did it. Me alone, no. But with two men, yes.

In December 1984, Elsa finally met her granddaughter formally in court. Paula had a stormy reaction:

She made an incredible scene. She said that she had a mother and a father and that I was wrecking her family. I told her that her mother had been my daughter Monica and that I had been searching for her for a long time. I showed her pictures of her as a small child with her parents. She threw them on the floor saying that they were false pictures, that they were too recent. I explained to her that they were new copies from old pictures. She finally looked at one picture and agreed that it did look like her, like one she had at home. I asked her if she remembered how she called her father. She used to call him .'Calio" and as she started to repeat his name, her voice became like that of a two-year-old. She started to cry and fell asleep. When she woke up she seemed fine. She took my hand, and we went home, but only if I would promise to buy her favorite children's magazine every Monday.

At Elsa's house, Paula immediately went to the room where she used to stay as a small child and looked for her old toys. She knew where the bathroom was and seemed completely at ease with the surroundings. After eight months, X rays of her bones showed that her development was normal for her age. The physicians who had been monitoring her case noted that this was a common occurrence among small children who had been separated from their mothers. The trauma of the separation had stunted her growth but, as in other cases, the effect was reversible.

Paula's kidnappers, however, managed to obtain visitation rights, and she was ordered by the judge to continue to see them; finally, she flatly refused, announcing that she would not have any more contact with her parents' torturers. It took four more years until Paula was able to recover her real name and the legal documentation that established her identity. Eighteen years old, Paula comments on her experience:

There were some difficult moments, such as when we all had a meeting in the court. There was my grandmother, my uncles and aunts, a couple of psychologists, the kidnappers, and the judge. It was really ugly. The judge suspended the meeting right away. Another time, Lavallen appeared around my house. He screamed at me, so I stuck my tongue out at him. He then got into a car, and drove past me. When I went to see the judge, I told him what had happened, and the judge blamed me for sticking out my tongue, as if I had provoked him. I got really angry, because if he had not followed me, I would not have done anything. At the same time, I have to admit that this judge was the first one to have the courage to restitute a person. If the judge had been a complete disaster, I would not be living with my family now.

When I returned home, we went into family therapy. My grandmother, my uncles and aunts, we all did joint sessions, everybody went. My grandmother started therapy before I went back, to prepare herself to receive me, and I went to therapy afterward. I think it helped. I was a child, I played during the sessions, but I think it was important.

There were some happy moments too. It was nice to meet my uncles and aunts. They would come one at a time or in couples, trying not to overwhelm me. I started to get to know them individually, and they would play with me. I have three aunts and one uncle. Two of the aunts are married. I have four cousins who were born after me, so I am the oldest. I also met my paternal grandfather, his new wife, and their two children. They are younger than me though they are my uncle and aunt. I agree with the way I was told the truth. The judge told me about it in the court, and he brought my grandmother into the room. I knew nothing until that moment. It was hard, but there was no confusion. It is really important to give support to the person who is going through the restitution process. One has to also establish limits, though. For instance. when I returned home,1 made a list of the things that I wanted from my other house. my favorite dolls, my skates. etc. They never gave them to me.1 complained about it a couple of times, but their point was that now I had other things. another family. I believe I was testing them by saying ..I want that.'. and I understand why they did not give it to me.

Going through the restitution process, one needs a lot of support. because it is a very big change. One is restructuring one's life. realizing what one is and what one is not. One has to be contained, emotionally and psychologically. The family that one is reentering into also needs support; it is a complex and difficult situation for everybody.

The work of integrating Paula into her family has taken years. Elsa points out that it is only recently that she and Paula have been able to laugh, fight, and cry together freely. The reconstruction of Paula's identity is an ongoing process, which they both believe is essential so that she can create a life based on the truth.

"That Is My Aunt"

On May 12, 1978, at 2 A.M., a group of armed men burst into the home of Adriana Mirta Bai and Miguel Arellanos. Nya Quesada, Adriana's mother, remembers:

They broke the door while they were sleeping. They took them away in the middle of the night, the two of them and their son, Nicolcis, two and a half years old. My daughter was an architecture student; neither she nor her husband were involved in politics. The following day I sensed something was wrong. We used to speak every day on the phone, and she had not called me. I sent her brother-in-Iaw to their house to check what happened. Neighbors told him that they had heard Adriana crying and calling her next-door neighbor.

I went to talk to this neighbor. She had seen Adriana's husband being beaten. The next morning my husband and I went to present our first writ of habeas corpus.I cannot even count anymore how many writs of habeas corpus I have presented. The judges always said they did not know anything. I went to all the jails. I traveled allover. I did everything you can think of. I wrote to the pope. I wrote to all the human rights organizations. I testified when the Organization of the American States came. I testified at CONADEP. I wrote letters all over the world. What happened with Nicolcis borders on the miraculous. It really is like a novel. Compared with other Grandmothers I consider myself very fortunate. About twenty days after the disappearances, my sister Menchu [a well-known TV and theater actress] received a phone call from the San Martin juvenile court. They asked her if she had a nephew named Nicolis. She said yes, and they said he was at the court. They wanted to know how old he was. They could not believe it when she said he was two and a half years old. He was so articulate they thought he was four years old. He had appeared at the doorstep of the court with two suitcases full of clothes. For the last few days, the secretary of the court, who had gotten very fond of him, had taken him to her home. There, watching TV, when the announcer mentioned my sister's name, Nicolis started to scream: "That is my aunt, my aunt Menchu!"

The secretary told the judge what Nicolis was saying. The following morning the judge called the TV channel and asked for my sister's telephone number. He then asked her to go to the court. When the judge brought the two of them together, Menchu opened her arms and Nicolis immediately threw himself onto her. The judge allowed him to go home with my sister right away. TV has never served a better purpose. Were it not for the TV announcer, the judge would have never found us.

Upon his return, Nicolis sometimes would lie on the floor or hide under a table and say: "Grandma, I am going to sleep, cover me up. Come down with me." We think this is because probably, when he was kidnapped, he was taken to a police station and slept on the floor with his mother. Nicolis would also tell us that the "garbage men" had come to their apartment, because he saw men stuffing their bags and taking everything away. Of course, they were looting the house. They stole everything: the TV, the record player, the encyclopedia, my son-in-Iaw's tools. This is what Nicolis saw and remembered at such a young age.

Nya believes that she was incredibly lucky in that the judge in charge of the case was sensitive and fair. Most judges would have sent Nicol3s to an orphanage or would have given him to a repressor for an illegal adoption. If that had happened, all traces of the child would have been lost. Nya thinks that her daughter must have pleaded for the child to be taken to the court to increase his chances of being reunited with his family.

Nicolas, now eighteen years old, is a talented and accomplished student at the National Conservatory Music School. He grew up with Nya and her husband and has been fortunate to be in a school where attention to children's emotional well-being was paramount. Nya commented with pleasure that at this school they observe Family Day, instead of Mother's Day, and thus he has been able to celebrate his family together with the other children.

"She Would Have That Baby Even If They Tortured Her"

Haydee Lemos is one of the founding members of the Grandmothers' organization and has been involved in many of the aspects of their work. In July 1977 her daughter Monica, eight months pregnant, was kidnapped with her husband, Gustavo Lavalle, and their fourteen- month-old daughter, Maria. Five days later, Maria appeared on Haydee's doorstep in a pitiful condition. Haydee always felt confident that her daughter would deliver her child, even while imprisoned:

My daughter was very strong. When she had her first child, she practically delivered alone. though she was in the hospital. She was very resilient, would never complain. One would never know if she was in pain or suffering. I thought that she would have that baby even if they tortured her. At that point, her other grandmother and I still believed in the good faith of the military. Thinking that they were going to call us after the birth. we started preparing the clothes for the baby. We always thought they would set them free. But nothing happened.

Ten years later, Estela de Carlotto met a friend of her daughter's at a bus stop. This friend told Estela that she had been detained in the Banfield camp and Estela asked her if she remembered the names of other prisoners. It turned out that she had met my son-in-Iaw in the camp and he had told her that my daughter had delivered a baby girl. I was convinced that my daughter was going to have a boy, so I assumed she was wrong and did not pay much attention to the story.24

Haydee worked as part of the investigation team, checking on the numerous anonymous tips they received continuously. She had already lost hope by the time one of the tips led to the identification of her granddaughter:

I was not expecting it to happen. It is like playing the lottery; one plays. but winning is another story. ...I was simply helping in the work. I was classifying pictures. We were extremely careful. Everything had to be checked many times, to make sure that the judges would not dismiss our work. A certain child seemed to fit the picture and when the genetic testing was ordered, the child turned out to be my granddaughter Maria Jose.

As soon as she was born, Maria Jose was taken away from her mother; she spent her first ten years living with a policewoman and her husband who had registered her as their own. When the child was identified, Haydee had mixed feelings and wondered about the best course of action:

I asked myself if it was right what I was doing. I was worried. After all, in that home she had a mother and a father.1 was trying to figure out what was best for her. When she came to live with me and started to cry, I was really afraid. But the morning after, while I was preparing breakfast, she came over and pointing to her arm said, "Look, I have a mole. just like the one Maria has. in the same place."

Marla Jose found herself with a large family: her sister Maria, uncles, aunts, her paternal grandparents, and her maternal grandmother. At Haydee's house she shared a room with Maria and slept in the same bed and on the same mattress where her mother had slept as a youngster. Haydee comments:

Maria Jose is now sixteen years old. She is in very good shape. I like people to see for themselves because otherwise they might think I am biased. She is an excellent student, finishing high school, studying English. She draws, she paints. She looks a lot like my daughter. Not only physically but in her way of being. She is very resilient. Those ten years with the police did not destroy her, they don't seem to have affected her. When she came to live with me I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she said "a police- woman." Of course, that was what she knew. And she had been watching a TV show where the main character was a policewoman. I got worried, I thought they had brainwashed her. But after a while she never mentioned it again.

Maria Jose and her sister are activists. They have done volunteer work in a community center; they have taken care of poor children and worked in a home for low-income old people. I think they are following the footsteps of their parents. They love doing that, but they also love going to parties and having a good time with their friends from school. Maria Jose wants to be seen as a regular young woman, not as a "case."

Maria Jose herself, now finishing high school, reflects on some of the events in her life since the return to her family:

It is difficult to understand what happened.1 don't mean my personal case or the restitution, because one goes on with life, one keeps on living. That is not hard to understand. What one cannot comprehend is what happened to a whole generation. Everybody thinks that the restitution is the difficult part, that it is traumatic. No. The hardest thing is what one cannot get back, not being able to recover one's parents. That is the hardest thing.
The best thing is that one can find oneself, and from then on, it is possible to think about the future. When one is at peace with oneself, inside, and knows what happened, one is with the truth, with reality, and it is easier to plan the rest of one's life.
I was lucky to learn the truth when I was small. It is different for those who are older. It is more difficult. It is one thing to be ten years old, and another to be eighteen. An older child is already formed. I was lucky.

Maria Jose established a strong relationship with the judge in charge of her case-Juan Ramos Padilla, one of the few judges who under- stood the urgency and importance of the Grandmothers' work:

When I was small I did not like him. I was afraid of him. I think he was more worried than I was. Now I get along very well with him.1 often visit him in his office. During the holidays. I always make sure that I go and greet him. He is a fine person. I think of him as a father.

During her summer vacations, she enjoys her extended family in the South of Argentina:

I like to go to the South for the holidays, because there we have a lot of family. My grandfather is from the South and all his brothers and sisters. nephews and nieces are there. For me, they are like cousins or uncles of third or fourth degree. The name Lavalle, my father's name, is very well known in the town. When you say our name, everybody knows who you are. The town is full of relatives. I was there twice. two years and four years ago. I would love to go back.

Marla Jose has a wide range of interests and an impressive knowledge of the arts, both in Argentina and abroad. She is considering a career in fine arts or in "something related to the earth. " She and her sister are part of a group of children whose parents have disappeared; they have been active participants in the yearly March of the Resistance, a twenty-four-hour event that the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and other human rights groups organize to honor the disappeared and to demand justice.

"Knowledge of the Truth Is the Best Therapy"
The Grandmothers' experience with the restitution process has led them to recognize a typical pattern when the children learn of their origins. Learning the truth hurts, and a strong emotional reaction usually follows the news. But following that first critical phase, lasting one to three days, the children bond with their found families, asking detailed questions and noting any signs of resemblance to their relatives. Members of the interdisciplinary team who have assisted the Grandmothers in restitution have commented on how the children identify with their legitimate families almost immediately. They have observed that a gesture, a voice, or a particular piece of information can become the specific agent that unleashes old memories, creating a moment of insight, the "click" that helps the child reconnect with the past.

Grandmother Nelida de Navajas comments:

People ask us how it is possible that a child who has lived many years with a certain family can return and adapt so quickly to her or his new home. When the children, some illegally adopted, others registered under a false identity. meet their family of origin. they start looking at their eyes, their hair, their teeth, their manner, and checking for similarities. Our consulting psychologists have suggested that we let the children find their own rhythm. They go freely investigating and, as they ask questions, we satisfy their desire to know. The first thing they ask is, How did my mother look? How did my father look? So we show them their pictures, and from there they start reconstructing everything. From the pictures they move to objects that belonged to their parents. They start gathering them as their own. They claim them and they become their personal treasure. It looks as if the children had not found a real point of contact with the families that had them and now, very quickly, from the physical to the spiritual, they get easily connected to their true families. In short, it shows that it is not possible to build an identity based on lies.

The Grandmothers have also noted that despite their pain on learning of their parents' disappearances, many children felt great relief in finding out that they had not been abandoned, that they were wanted children. In the case of Tatiana Sfiligoy, when her grandmothers appeared and she learned her story, the child became very anxious. The adoptive mother, however, reminded Tatiana, who was then seven years old, that she had not been abandoned, that her parents were kidnapped and had left her against their will. The reaction of the child was immediate: her anxiety diminished and she became calm and tranquil, in spite of the sad news regarding her parents' fate. Estela de Carlot to put it succinctly: "the knowledge of the truth is the best therapy."

Some children openly expressed their satisfaction at being finally identified. On the day that a child was restituted to her family, when her grandmother told her, "1 have searched for you for so long," the child answered, " And I was waiting for you, grandmother. "In the case of Maria Jose Lavalle Lemos, when the judge told her about her origins, she answered that she had always thought she had another home, another family, and a sibling.

Truth becomes a cornerstone of the recovered identity of the found children. By changing their names, their ages, and their identities, the appropriators turned the children into objects, depriving them of their history. Some children resisted the efforts to erase any trace of their past by refusing to have their names changed. The significance of one's own name as a remnant of one's identity reflects the relationship with one's parents, who gave one that name.
Other children, obliged by judges to meet with their appropriators, refused to speak with them because of the lies that they had been told. Sometimes they openly challenged the judges. When Ximena Vicario was told by the judge, "I represent your father, and I decide your fate," the child responded that he was not her father, that her father had disappeared. When the judge invited her to see her "mother," Ximena answered that her mother was assassinated and that Siciliano was not her mother. When he addressed her as Romina, the name that Siciliano had given her, she claimed her true name, Ximena. And when the visit with Siciliano took place, Ximena confronted her about her lies.

A child psychoanalyst who has worked with the Grandmothers through many restitutions has been deeply impressed by the found children:

All the children whom I met were extremely intelligent. one could say almost superendowed.1 am not surprised about that, because those children know at a deep level, unconsciously, some important truths. They had to build up a defense system about lying. a very powerful system to be able to survive. They have a great capacity of adaptation. quite exceptional in most cases. They have had to tolerate lies and to know what questions to ask and which ones not to. They have had to steer themselves carefully. As a result. they have developed great sensitivity and intelligence.

Psychologists had to recognize that in working with the Grandmothers, they entered uncharted territory. The situations they encountered, ranging from the disappearances of the parents to the restitution of the children, were new and forced them to reconsider many of their theories and clinical practices. Another psychologist, who worked with the Grandmothers for eight years, reflects:

The Grandmothers taught us about some fundamental aspects of the human condition. They forced us to rethink issues of identity. We had to revise our thinking. Many of us did not know what they meant when they spoke of "restitution." They had to explain it to us. We eventually realized that what they were saying was full of common sense and wisdom, and it helped us develop new perspectives. There is a before - and an after - the Grandmothers. Their contribution cannot be overestimated, and the personal and professional growth that those of us who worked with them experienced was phenomenal.

The Grandmothers refused to accept that the trauma the children had suffered could be totally defined and dealt with in terms of individual relations between children and caretakers. They consistently saw the larger picture. They recognized that ignoring the social and political trauma at the center of the children's lives would prevent their healing, because individual identities develop as part of a larger social process. They understood that for the children to become active agents and create their own lives, the cruel mechanism that had turned them into objects had to be exposed. Their vision was an ecological one, requiring the recognition of truth and justice as fundamental prerequisites for a healthy future-both for individuals and for society.