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Long-lost Argentine grandson reflects on turbulent year

AFP | Ignacio Montoya Carlotto and his grandmother, Estela de Carlotto in Buenos Aires on August 8, 2014

A year after learning he was the stolen baby that Argentina's most famous grandmother had sought for decades, Ignacio Montoya Carlotto said Wednesday he is still sorting through the fallout but happy to know his identity.

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On August 5 last year, Montoya Carlotto -- who was then called Ignacio Hurban -- received a phone call informing him that DNA tests had found he was the grandson of Estela Carlotto, the leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Carlotto's group was founded to search for the estimated 500 babies taken from political prisoners during Argentina's 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

Until last August, she had helped track down 113 kidnapped babies, but had never managed to locate her own grandson.

The news made headlines around the globe, warming hearts worldwide but also adding to the turbulence for Montoya Carlotto as he sorted through his reshuffled identity, he said.

"A year ago I got a call from an unknown number and from one minute to the next my doorstep filled with people. I sensed that something or everything of what my life had been would never be the same again," he wrote in an anniversary statement posted online.

"I lived a very long year this year. It seems like 10 million years have gone by. So many things have happened in such a short time and it seems like time moved more slowly," he said in an interview with his hometown newspaper in the city of Olavarria, some 350 kilometers (215 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires.

He fondly recalled his first meetings with Carlotto, whom he hugged with a warm grin at her organization's headquarters three days after getting his test results.

"I came face to face with happiness reflected in the tears of a long life of searching, ending at last with the prize of an embrace," he wrote.

Tangled identity

Montoya Carlotto is the son of Walmir Montoya and Laura Carlotto, activists abducted and killed by the regime during its "dirty war" against leftists and dissidents.

His mother gave birth to him in detention on June 26, 1978, and was killed shortly after.

Montoya Carlotto, today a 37-year-old musician, was raised by two farm workers who apparently received him from their employer, who had ties to the regime. They are currently facing trial over his kidnapping. But Montoya Carlotto speaks of them fondly and distances himself from the criminal case."

Until a year ago I had a calm and straightforward life with loving people who accompanied me with the bravery of gladiators and the best love imaginable," he wrote.

His grandmother for her part said that sorting through her grandson's tangled identity has been difficult at times for her, as well.

Montoya Carlotto decided to take his mother's and father's surnames, but opted not to use the first name his mother chose for him: Guido, according to a survivor who was imprisoned with her.

"That hurt me. I told him, 'Your mom named you Guido and I looked for you all over the world as Guido,'" Carlotto, 84, told newspaper Tiempo Argentino. But she has since come to accept the decision, she said.

"He's lost his entire history and found another. How can he lose his name, too?" she said.

"The Grandmothers don't search for grandchildren in order to make them prisoners. We do it to set them free."

Carlotto's organization works with testing centers that carry out DNA analysis to find the missing babies who have never been identified.

Her grandson was found after going in for testing on a hunch. It prompted hundreds of other Argentines to do the same.

Since then, two more kidnapped babies have been found, bringing the total to 116.

Montoya Carlotto said his own experience was simply a microcosm of the trauma Argentina is still dealing with three decades after the dictatorship.

"The story of my family is bound up in the story of the country," he told Tiempo Argentino.

(AFP)

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