Argentina’s Disappeared Children: Carla Artés

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


Carla had spent her early childhood growing up under the name Amanda Ruffo in a smart suburb of Buenos Aires, but when a democratically elected government came to power in 1983, the same year Carla saw her baby photo on television, she and her family began to move house around the city's outskirts every three months. Both Carla and Alejandro were taken out of school.

A year after seeing her baby photo on television, when Carla was ten, the Argentinian police stormed into Carla’s home and arrested her parents....

"My parents said we were going on holiday. It was a strange life. My father would come and go. I was used to seeing guns around the house. The thing I hated most was the way they would cut my hair, or curl it, or dye it, give me a fringe then chop it off, make me wear different glasses and coloured contact lenses."

A year after seeing her baby photo on television, when Carla was ten, the Argentinian police stormed into Carla's home and arrested her parents at 4am in the morning. "Alejandro and I were terrified. The police brought dogs with them. I thought they had come for me."

The family were taken to the police station. Alejandro was allowed to leave with his supposed grandparents but Carla was kept for questioning. Later in the day Carla was taken to see her fake father. "He was sitting handcuffed on a chair in a small room. By chance there was a big poster behind him with photos of me and my 'mother', with the word Buscados (Wanted) above it. Then I began to understand things in a different way. All Ruffo said to me was, 'Don't let the old witch take your blood.' That was the last time I saw him."


That night Carla chose to go home with Satcha who later, slowly, answered her questions about her family history. Later blood tests confirmed her identity. In 1991 a compulsory blood test revealed that Alejandro was not his apparent parents' biological child, but since there was no match for his blood at the National Genetic Bank he remained with them.

"I analyse it now," says Carla. "And I realise I didn't find the separation from my adoptive parents that difficult. My childhood hadn't been happy. I'd been brought up by nannies and starved of affection. 

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