TO FEEL HAPPINESS through another person. Is that not the definition of love? But what if that person is not known? Or rather, known but never met. Never touched. Never spoken to. Is it still possible then to define love this way?
It is possible. On Tuesday August 5, 2014, that shared happiness went through all of Argentina. Our whole country swayed in an embrace. Falling tears, renewed hope: Estela de Carlotto, president of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, announced that, after 36 years of searching, she had found her grandson Guido.
Her eyes translated for us 36 years of struggle that would be impossible to put into words. The eyes of a mother who did not succumb to the pain of losing her daughter. Who invested her energy, love, and time finding answers. In creating possibilities. The spirit of a woman who never spoke of revenge but justice. To never let death win the tug of war with hope. All that was there, in the face of Estela Barnes de Carlotto, seconds before starting the press conference.
And then she spoke. And then it was true. “It’s a prize for everyone.” Guido had looked for her. The poetry enclosing that fact is immense: Guido looked for his grandmother. That grandmother who never lost hope of finding him. He found her. The circle was closed with an ending that’s really a start. “I didn’t want to die without hugging him,” confessed Estela. And all ran to embrace our loved ones. We sent messages, called. We shared that moment. And in some way — and thanks to Estela’s generosity — it belonged to everyone.
But why is this particular case so emotional? Each of the 113 grandchildren recovered and reunited with their families marked a path. What seemed impossible was repeated 113 times. Each was a step towards memory, truth, and justice, values that for many years had been eradicated from our reality. Little by little, Estela became a symbol of that repair. A personification of the fight, the tenacity that so many women have carried forward. We all know the story of Laura, her daughter, kidnapped three months pregnant, murdered by the dictatorship shortly after giving birth to a boy. We all know the story of Estela, seeking untiringly that baby born in captivity in a clandestine concentration camp in 1978, snatched, stolen, ripped, not only from the arms of his mother, but also his family.
Each time she appeared with a recovered grandchild, we all felt so many emotions. She was the one responsible for giving the news in each of the 113 cases. Her face is the emblem, the flag always high.
During all these years, we were confounded by her perseverance, patience, love, strength. Where does she get the energy? How does she keep going?
The answer lived in Olavarría. Long in coming but finally here. And it left us all speechless in front of the television screen. Estela found Guido. Guido found Estela.
And then once we shook off the surprise, once, in slow motion, we managed to react, to fall, to try and measure what this means. The profundity it implies. Because Estela’s fight, the fight of the grandmothers, is everybody’s fight. Because there are 400 more Guidos or Victorias or Tatianas or Juanes that do not yet know their true identities. Because the identities of those 400 people were taken from us all. And yet each returned grandson returns us all a piece of history. Because the grandmothers’ relentlessness reminds us that it is impossible to build a future even if we haven’t solved the past.
Today, Argentina’s past, present, and future merge in Estela and Guido’s embrace.