Estela Barnes de Carlotto

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Estela Barnes de Carlotto
Estela de Carlotto.jpg
Mrs. Carlotto at the inauguration of the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo Garden, in Paris.
Born (1930-10-22) October 22, 1930 (age 83)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Occupation President of the Association of Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo
Spouse(s) Guido Carlotto (d. 2001)

Enriqueta Estela Barnes de Carlotto (born October 22, 1930) is an Argentine human rights activist and leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Life and times[edit]

Early life and family tragedy[edit]

Enriqueta Estela Barnes was born in Buenos Aires in 1930. Her family relocated to La Plata in 1940, and by 1950, she had become a primary school teacher. She taught in Brandsen, and later in La Plata, where she eventually became a school principal. She married Guido Carlotto, a paint store owner, and they had four children.[1]

The Dirty War being waged by the military dictatorship against both violent and non-violent dissidents first struck her family in September 1976, when her son-in-law's sister, María Claudia Falcone, was abducted during the notorious Night of the Pencils assault against left-wing La Plata high schoolers. Her daughter, Laura Estela Carlotto, was a History student at the University of La Plata, and belonged to the Peronist University Youth movement (JUP), as did her siblings, Claudia, and Miguel Guido. The JUP was tied to the Montoneros guerrilla organization, and its members were targeted by both the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, and the dictatorship that took power in the March 1976 coup. Fearing for her safety, Laura Carlotto left the home she shared with her partner, Carlos, on August 1, 1977. Guido Carlotto was then kidnapped on August 5, and was released on August 25 only after payment of 40 million pesos (US$ 90,000), and after being severely tortured.[2]

Their daughter Laura was in turn abducted on November 16, 1977, with her partner, Carlos. She was three months pregnant at the time, and was taken to "La Cacha," a secret detention center in La Plata. The Carlottos were friends of Marta Bignone, whose brother, General Reynaldo Bignone, directed the Campo de Mayo training base (he would be selected President of Argentina by the dictatorship in 1982). Bignone refused to cooperate with the grieving family, however.[2]

Laura Carlotto gave birth at the military hospital in Buenos Aires on June 26, 1978, and on August 25, subordinates of General Guillermo Suárez Mason (who as head of the Argentine Army First Section oversaw La Cacha) turned over her corpse to the Carlottos with her face and abdominal area mutilated. One of only a small number of missing dead returned to their families, she was buried on August 27 in La Plata.[1]

The baby, whose legal name would be Guido Carlotto, remains missing.[2]


Mrs. Carlotto and President Néstor Kirchner confer at the Casa Rosada in 2006.

Retired from her post as principal since August 30, 1978, Mrs. Carlotto became a member of the Abuelas Argentinas con Nietitos Desaparecidos (Argentine Grandmothers with Missing Grandchildren) by April 1979. She then began to seek and demand the release of his grandson and other children kidnapped or disappeared by military forces during the military dictatorship. The group, founded by Alicia de la Cuadra and 11 other grandmothers in a similar situation in 1977, was renamed the Association of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo in 1980. Mrs. Carlotto became its Vice President, and in 1989 its President.[1]

Her search for information led her to São Paulo, Brazil, in 1980, where women whose children and/or grandchildren had met similar fates had organized "CLAMOR," a group dedicated to raising public awareness of ongoing abuses. While in São Paulo, she was told by a survivor of the La Cacha prison of a woman known as "Rita" whose father owned a paint store, had had a baby boy, and was released with "Carlos" on August 24, 1978. The anecdote led Mrs. Carlotto to believe that her daughter had been killed upon her release.[2]

An estimated 500 children were either kidnapped or seized at birth from women in detention during the Dirty War. The vast majority were given or sold to adoptive parents, including numerous perpetrators and accomplices in the murder of their biological parents.[1][3] The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo located the first missing grandchild in 1984. They secured the establishment of the National Genetic Data Bank for Relatives of Disappeared Children in 1987,[3] and the National Commission for the Right of Identity, an office tasked with facilitating answers to those who doubt the nature of their adoptions, in 1992.[4] Mrs. Carlotto announced the discovery of the 100th grandchild on December 21, 2009.[5]

Guido Carlotto, her husband, died in La Plata on October 21, 2001.[6] Estela Barnes de Carlotto earned the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 2003. She was on hand with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to inaugurate the Jardin des Mères et Grand-mères de la Place de Mai in Paris, in 2008.[7] Filmmaker Nicolás Gil Lavedra announced the production of a biographical film, Estela, in 2011, starring Susú Pecoraro as the renowned activist.[8]

External links[edit]