Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Uproar in Olavarría?

My wife’s hometown of Olavarría (pictured below), in the middle of the Pampas of Buenos Aires Province, is historically a cow-town that’s also prospered thanks to a cement plant that exploited some of Argentina’s largest quarries. In recent days, though, it’s drawn international attention because a young man, raised by a couple in the countryside, turned out to be the grandson of the high-profile president of the Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo), formed to rescue the children of their own disappeared children from Argentina’s 1976-83 Dirty War.
Earlier this year, on learning that he was "adopted," Ignacio Hurban took a DNA test that determined he  was Estela de Carlotto’s grandson Guido Montoya Carlotto. I won’t go into the usual details of the story, which has been covered extensively in English as well as Spanish, but I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective that I’ve gleaned in conversations with my wife, from a local’s viewpoint. This is a sensitive topic in her family because her brother’s first wife disappeared barely a month after their son’s birth, and I will decline to include any names that are not already widely known (though I will add that my nephew, despite losing his mother shortly after his birth, has grown up to be a remarkably well-adjusted young man).
Many children of the disappeared ended up in military families – to be raised by their parents’ assassins – as depicted in the Oscar-winning film The Official Story (ceremony above, emceed by the late Robin Williams, who mispronounces the surname of Argentine actress Norma Aleandro). Ignacio Hurban’s adoptive parents, though, were a modest couple who worked on a well-known landowner’s cattle ranch. That’s raised questions as to whether the landowner himself was in league with the military murderers, and the potential culpability of the local physician who signed off on a falsified birth certificate.

In related news, in September Olavarría will be the site of the trial of four military men accused of kidnapping and torturing political activists at nearby Monte Peloni, one of the dictatorship's documented detention centers. The landowner, who died a few months ago, had connections to those four.

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