In the late 1990s, the group began intensifying pressure on authorities, propelling prosecutors to take the case to trial. Now, after 15 months of testimony, the proceedings are days away from coming to a close.
“This was something they always talked about and worked for,” said Alejandro Sandoval, 34, one of the grandchildren the group helped recover. “To see this trial going on is really fantastic, and it is due to the patience and the will that the grandmothers had to get to the truth.”
Quest for the truth
Still, the group’s leadership says there is much left to unravel about the dictatorship, which zealously wiped out dissent by killing thousands of union members, leftist activists and insurgents from the Montoneros group. Many were simply “disappeared” after being kidnapped and tortured — either drugged and tossed from airplanes over the Atlantic or buried in unmarked graves.
Women close to term gave birth in detention centers, with the newborns left at orphanages or illegally adopted by military officers, in some cases the same henchmen involved in killing the mothers.
In Roisinblit’s case, her daughter, Patricia, was snatched by state agents Oct. 6, 1978, when she was eight months pregnant. Her body was never found, but Roisinblit learned from other political prisoners that Patricia gave birth at the notorious Naval Mechanics School.
Then, more than 12 years ago, an anonymous caller phoned the Grandmothers’ offices to inform that Roisinblit’s grandson was alive. DNA testing established that the young man, who was 21 at the time, was her grandson. An investigation determined that he had been illegally adopted by an air force official.
“He is a grown man now, married, with two children, and I’m a great-grandmother,” said Roisinblit, explaining how she felt “privileged” to have found him.
Many others have not been so fortunate.
In the late 1970s, Oesterheld’s daughters joined the militant leftists. Her husband, Hector Oesterheld, a cartoonist famous for his science fiction strips, did, too.
And then, one by one, the military picked them off.
The two eldest daughters, Estela and Diana, already had toddlers, both of whom were taken in by relatives after the mothers were kidnapped.
But Diana and the youngest, Marina, were pregnant, and Oesterheld believes they gave birth before being killed.
“We assume that they are alive, because, in general, they didn’t kill the babies,” Oesterheld said, referring to her missing grandchildren.
She said, though, that she leaves the search for those grandchildren to Estela and Diana’s sons, Martin Mortola Oesterheld and Fernando Araldi Oesterheld.
“What those boys tell me is they will never stop looking,” Oesterheld said.