Long-lost Argentine grandson says reunion 'magical'

Long-lost Argentine grandson tweets photo with grandma
Long-lost Argentine grandson tweets photo with grandma

Buenos Aires (AFP) - The long-lost grandson of an activist who fights to find babies stolen during Argentina's dictatorship described Friday the complicated process of reconstructing his identity and his "wonderful, magical" reunion with his family.

Ignacio Hurban appeared at ease as he spoke to the media for the first time since discovering his real identity, joking that he did not mind whether reporters called him Ignacio, Guido -- the name his mother gave him, according to survivors of the secret prison where he was born -- or "Pacho," his nickname.

The 36-year-old broke into a grin as a he got a hug from his famous grandmother Estela Carlotto, the president of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, his graying hair showing signs of the stark white hers has grown to at age 83.

Carlotto's rights group has battled for decades to find the estimated 500 babies taken from political prisoners during the 1976-1983 military regime's "dirty war" against leftist opponents.

Looking at her, Hurban, the 114th stolen baby to be found, said he was enjoying the discovery of his true identity, "but enjoying even more the happiness it's brought to others."

"It's been 48 hours now that I know who I am, or who I was or who I wasn't. All this is a little fresh," he told the throngs of journalists at the Buenos Aires headquarters of his grandmother's organization.

But still, "it has been wonderful and magical," he said.

He said he did not know "exactly what it was" that made him go to a national center that carries out genetic testing to find the missing babies that have never been identified.

He said he had learned two months ago, on his birthday, that he was adopted, and that the news had unlocked a "complicated process" in his mind.

"There were sounds in my head, things that didn't fit together," he said.

"One of the pieces that didn't fit was my love of music," said the jazz musician and composer, who learned this week that his biological father and grandfather were amateur musicians, as well as various members of his mother's family.

"I'm still in shock. All this happened to me very recently," he said.

- Building 'Argentina's collective memory' -

Carlotto's daughter Laura, a leftist militant, was three months pregnant when she was taken to a prison camp by the rightwing authoritarian regime in 1977.

She gave birth on June 26, 1978, while in captivity. She named the boy Guido but was killed two months after he was born.

Her body was later handed to her mother. The boy's father was also killed in captivity.

An estimated 30,000 people were killed or abducted and presumed killed during the dictatorship.

Many children taken from political prisoners were raised by military and police officials. Others were even taken in by their parents' killers.

In 2012, former dictators Jorge Videla, who has since died, and Reynaldo Bignone were sentenced to 50 years and 15 years in prison, respectively, over the regime's theft of babies.

A judge has opened an investigation to determine how Hurban ended up being raised by a family in the countryside after being taken from his mother.

Hurban repeated several times Friday that he hoped his story would encourage others to undergo DNA testing at the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which continues searching for nearly 400 missing babies.

"I hope the situation I went through will help further this search," he said.

"Anyone with the slightest doubts should go see the Grandmothers and do the test. We have to do it. It seems necessary to me to build Argentina's collective memory."