Monday, August 25, 2014

Torture Tours, Part Five: The Letter

In my last post, I wrote about the appearance of Estela de Carlotto’s grandson in my wife’s hometown of Olavarría, which is probably getting more press attention than any time in living memory. The topic has also come up in my household again because my cousin Elisa Rodríguez, who works as a freelance guide in El Calafate, wants to present the topic to her English-speaking clients.
Elisa, who speaks English well but can be a little timid in doing so, asked me to translate an open letter Carlotto addressed to her newly recovered grandson on his 18th birthday in 1996. The Carlottos lived in the Buenos Aires provincial capital of La Plata (pictured above), one of Argentina's major educational centers.
I’m not a professional translator and, though I handle both Spanish and English well, I am more comfortable translating into my native English. In any event, here is the letter:
“Today is your 18th birthday, and I wish to tell you some things and express some sentiments you may not know. Your grandparents belonged to a generation that lent a unique and special value to every event in our lives. The birth of a grandchild was one of those events: baptism (or not), the first baby steps, first communion (or not), the first baby tooth, kindergarten, the white school uniform, and the request “Grandma, teach me the multiplication tables.” These are transcendent moments.
But on your 18th birthday, this goes beyond unique and special like all those others that we have been unable to spend together. That’s because they took you from the arms of your mother Laura just hours after your birth in a military hospital, where she was handcuffed in custody, in order to steal you away, cunningly and furtively, to an uncertain future.
At the beautiful and idealistic age of 18, Guido, you are growing up with another name. It’s not your father and mother, but rather your kidnappers, who are celebrating your coming adulthood. What they don’t understand is that, without knowing it, in your heart and mind you carry all the lullabies and songs that Laura whispered to you in the solitude of her captivity, as you shifted in her womb. And you will awake one day knowing how much she loved you and we all love you.
And one day you will ask, “Where can I find them?” And you will seek similarities in your mother’s face and you will discover that you like opera, classical music or jazz (how old-fashioned!) just as your grandparents do.  You will listen to Sui Generis or Almendra or Pappo, feeling them as deeply in yourself as Laura did. One day you will awake, dear grandson, from this nightmare and be born again to liberate yourself.
I am looking for you. I am waiting. With all my love.
Your grandmother,

Estela”

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