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The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Spanish: Asociación Civil Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo) is a human rights organization with the goal of finding the children stolen and illegally adopted during the Argentine dictatorship. Its president is Estela Barnes de Carlotto.

Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo
Madres y Abuelas entrando a la ESMA en el acto de traspaso de la ESMA.jpg
The mothers and grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo enter to the former Navy Petty-Officers School of Mechanics detention center.
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersPlaza de Mayo

It was founded in 1977 to locate children kidnapped during the repression, some of them born to mothers in prison who were later "disappeared", and to return the children to their surviving biological families. The work of the Grandmothers, assisted by United States genetics scientist Mary-Claire King, by 1998 had led to the location of more than 10 percent of the estimated 500 children kidnapped or born in detention during the military era and illegally adopted, with their identities hidden.[1]

By 1998 the identities of 256 missing children had been documented. Of those, 56 children have been located, and seven others had died. The Grandmothers' work led to the creation of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team and the establishment of a National Genetic Data Bank. Aided by recent breakthroughs in genetic testing, the Grandmothers succeeded in returning 31 children to their biological families. In 13 other cases, adoptive and biological families agreed on jointly raising the children after they had been identified. The remaining cases are bogged down in court custody battles between families.[2] As of June 2019, their efforts have resulted in finding 130 grandchildren.[3][4]

The kidnapped babies were part of a systematic government plan during the "Dirty War", to pass the children for adoption by military families and allies of the regime, to avoid raising another generation of subversives.[1] According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the junta feared that "the anguish generated in the rest of the surviving family because of the absence of the disappeared would develop, after a few years, into a new generation of subversive or potentially subversive elements, thereby not permitting an effective end to the Dirty War".[2][5][6][7]

As an offshoot of the Silvia Quintela case, former dictator Jorge Videla was detained under house-arrest in 2010 on multiple charges of kidnapping children. In July 2012 he was convicted and sentenced to fifty years in prison for the systematic stealing of babies.[8]

On 14 September 2011 the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo received the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize in Paris for their work in defense of Human Rights.[9]


The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo was founded in 1977 to protect children's rights as a response to state sponsored terrorism.[9] Initially they were known as Argentine Grandmothers with Disappeared Grandchildren (Abuelas Argentinas con Nietitos Desaparecidos), but later adopted the name The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo).[10] In 1983 the constitutional government was reestablished and the grandmothers searched for missing children using anonymous tips and their own investigations, but were unable to prove the children's identities.[11] Geneticists from the United States worked with the Grandmothers. They were able to store blood samples from family members in the National Genetic Data Bank until the grandchildren could be located and could confirm the relatedness with an accuracy rate of 99.99%.[11] The Grandmothers fought through the court systems to annul the unlawful adoptions. By the mid 1990s legal battles of custody were no longer appropriate because the missing grandchildren were now legal adults.[11] The grandmothers adapted their strategy and started public awareness campaigns to direct the missing grandchildren to contact the organization.[11] As of 2008, their efforts have resulted in finding 97 grandchildren.[11]

Work with Identity ArchiveEdit

In 2000, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo partnered with the Identity Archive to provide collections of photos, films, audiotapes, diaries, significant objects, and personal stories from families whose children and grandchildren had disappeared.[12] This was done because some of the grandparents were aging and dying without finding their grandchildren and the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo wanted to provide these accounts if children were found in the future.[12]

Public awareness campaignsEdit

In the mid to late 1990s, the missing grandchildren that the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo sought became legal adults and the Grandmothers turned to public awareness campaigns to achieve their goals. The difference between Argentina's case and other child trafficking cases is that the disappeared children likely did not know that they were adopted.[13] The organization turned to a commercial campaign and joined with actors to appeal to a younger audience. Their goal was to use popular culture manufacture doubt within the minds of a group of people who would have never questioned their family.[13]


Originally 13 grandmothers gathered to form the organization.[15][16][17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Juan Ignacio Irigaray, "Los santos inocentes", El Mundo, 11 June 1998 (in Spanish)
  2. ^ a b Marta Gurvich, "Argentina's Dapper", in Consortium News, August 19, 1998 (in English)
  3. ^ "Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo identify 130th missing Grandchild". Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  4. ^ "Buenos Aires Times | Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo identify 130th missing grandchild of long search". Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  5. ^ [1][permanent dead link], Al Jazeera, March 2012
  6. ^ Barrionuevo, Alexei (8 October 2011). "Daughter of Argentina's 'Dirty War,' Raised by the Man Who Killed Her Parents". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Los Padrinos", Plan Sistematico blog, January 2012
  8. ^ "Videla condenado a 50 anos por robo de bebes" (Videla sentenced to 50 years for stealing babies), Noticias (Peru) (in Spanish)
  9. ^ a b "Argentina's Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo awarded UNESCO peace prize". UN News Centre. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  10. ^ Bousquet, Jean Pierre (1983). Las Locas de la Plaza de Mayo. Buenos Aires: El Cid. ASIN B000NX97VM.
  11. ^ a b c d e Gandsman, Ari (16 April 2009). ""A Prick of a Needle Can Do No Harm": Compulsory Extraction of Blood in the Search for the Children of Argentina's Disappeared". The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. 1. 14: 162–184. doi:10.1111/j.1935-4940.2009.01043.x.
  12. ^ a b Arditti, Rita (2007). "e Grandmothers of the Plaza De Mayo". Women's Review Of Books. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  13. ^ a b Gandsman, Ari (November 2009). ""Do You Know Who You Are?" Radical Existential Doubt and Scientific Certainty in the Search for the Kidnapped Children of the Disappeared in Argentina". Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology. 37 (4): 441–465. doi:10.1111/j.1548-1352.2009.01068.x.
  14. ^ "Murió la primera presidenta de Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo". El Mercurio. 2008-06-08. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
  15. ^ Raúl Veiga, Las organizaciones de derechos humanos, 1985, p. 63. Quote: "Como decíamos, la organización comenzó a funcionar en 1977 con trece abuelas reclamando por sus trece nietos y se fue ampliando gradualmente. Hoy existen 183 de esas mujeres que tuvieron que cambiar sus delantales y su paz ..."
  16. ^ Elizabeth Maier, Nathalie Lebon, Women's Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean: Engendering ..., 2010, p. 105. Quote: "I went to the Grandmothers and began attending the meetings at Plaza de Mayo and signed up for the different tasks. ... Thirteen Grandmothers belong to the standing committee, and other Grandmothers who do not belong to the committee... "
  17. ^ América herida y rebelde, Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, 1984, p. 111. Quote: "A la primera reunión asistimos trece abuelas, con el fin de ver qué era posible hacer. ... En el momento en que nos unimos, sólo en este momento, nos organizamos las trece abuelas que iniciamos el movimiento, y propusimos un plan de ..."

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