Voices of our Community


The Reunion

by Ruxanda Renita, Communications Intern

Photo: Far left, Estela Barnes de Carlotto painted by Ross Rossin

Today, August 26th, marks an important day in the history of human rights  –  Women’s Equality Day. Thanks to the importance of recognizing women’s rights on a global scale, women can take part in shaping human rights. On this occasion, we have chosen to highlight the touching reunion of Estela Barnes de Carlotto, an extraordinary woman and founder of Las Abuelas de Plazo de Mayo, with her missing grandson

I remember how surprised I was when I read about the twin molecules theory in one of Stephen Hawking’s books. The theory purports that even if twin molecules are separated by thousands of light years from each other, in different galaxies – nothing will hinder them from finding each other. I immediately thought of this theory upon learning that Estela Barnes de Carlotto and her grandson, who had been missing for 38 years, reunited on August 6th, 2014.

On August 1st , Jill Savitt – the Human Rights activist and curator of The Center’s Spark of Conviction: Global Human Rights Gallery,  sent the breaking news to us, declaring:

“It is cause for celebration any time a family is reunited after a crisis or conflict.  In the case of Estela Barnes de Carlotto, her reunion with her grandson is especially poignant because she devoted her life to finding the children of those who had disappeared. “

During Argentina’s “Dirty War” from 1976 to 1983, thousands of citizens suspected of holding leftist political views; were abducted by the right-wing government. When pregnant women were kidnapped, they were kept alive until they gave birth, and their children were given to other families.  Estelas’s daughter, Laura Carlotto was one of these women – who was murdered by the government following giving birth.

This tragic event helped Estela find the courage to join with other grieving grandmothers to fund Abuelas de Plazo de Mayo (The Grandmothers of The Plazo de Mayo) – a group aimed at finding the lost children. “Her organization identified more than 100 children who had been abducted and raised by other families, and reunited them with their biological families, “affirms Jill Savit.

Prompted by intense pressure from the Abuelas, Argentina formed the National Genetic Data Bank – the first DNA bank in the world - and the National Commission for the Right of Identity which investigated the children’s whereabouts. The Abuelas’ voice resonated worldwide, shaping international law in 1990 when the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child agreed to include articles on a child’s right to an identity.

“…She got to see their joy, which gave her great satisfaction, but no resolution to her own family's story.  Until now,”  Savitt expressed.  

Guido Carlotto, Estela’s grandson is a pianist and composer who is the director of a music school in Buenos Aires. “Thanks to God,” said Estela at the news conference in Argentina, “thanks to life, because I didn't want to die without embracing him, and soon I will be able to.”

 “They proved -- and continue to prove -- that justice can be achieved when people come together and fight for it, “ Jill Savitt explained.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights acknowledged Estela de Carlotto’s efforts and dedication to human rights by including her portrait, commissioned by Ross Rossin, in the Human Rights Defenders gallery , along with Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Yelena Bonner, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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