Argentina’s Disappeared Children: Carla Artés

Marie Claire  New York & London, 1999, 2,000 words; adapted extracts  

Carla Artés was found by her grandmother, Satcha, after living the early years of her childhood under a false identity created by her "parents". Her real parents were among those who "disappeared" during the Argentinian dictatorship, and in 2005 she was to become one of 200 witnesses in a trial that revealed the collaboration of high-ranking military staff in the "disappearances". Carla's and Satcha's courage made a deep impression on me.

At the end of the article is an update.

In 2005 Carla became one of 200 witnesses who gave evidence in Madrid  against Adolfo Scilingo, whose testimony revealed the implication of high-ranking military staff in the disappearances during the dictatorship.

Carla Artés was 10 years old when she found out that the man she believed to be her father had stolen her from her mother in a government prison camp in Argentina.

During Argentina’s military dictatorship (1976-83) the government’s dirty war against potential critics led to some 30,000 people disappearing in military hands.

"My world collapsed when the judge said my parents weren't my real mother and father. When you're ten you cannot get a measure on something like that. It's like a jigsaw puzzle with only a few pieces that fit."

Today Carla, aged 23, lives with her three-year-old daughter and her Spanish-born maternal grandmother, Satcha, in Madrid. Satcha moved from Cuba to Spain in 1976 to search for her missing grandaughter. But fourteen years after Carla recovered her real identity, they wait to see justice done. Her fake father has never been prosecuted for Carla's abduction, nor has he paid a $5 million indemnity granted to Satcha by an Argentinian court in 1986....


Carla's case is not unique. During Argentina's military dictatorship (1976-83), the government's 'dirty war' against potential critics led to some 30,000 people disappearing in military hands. Most of the 'disappeared' - who ranged from nuns, students, Jews, figures and intellectuals to leading political figures - were arrested and taken to clandestine prison camps where they were tortured and assassinated.

They included an estimated 500 women who were arrested with babies or who gave birth while imprisoned. These are the babies who were abducted by officers who ran the camps, to be given to families sympathetic to the regime and brought up with false identities. The majority were never legally adopted and were brought up with false identities.

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