“At times I wondered what the hell I was living for. I had to find a way to continue, thinking about everyday things, hoping for this moment of happiness. Hugging him that first time, it was as if I filled a hole in my soul.” —Abel Madariaga
I discovered this remarkable story while I was looking for a way in to writing about our multimedia production pairing portraits of the children of Argentina’s Disappeared with the poetry of Alicia Partnoy, one of the disappeared who returned. After 32 years and the help of the Argentinian human rights group Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo), Francisco Madariaga Quintela learned his true identity and met his father, Abel Madariaga, for the first time in late February.
A DNA test revealed that his biological parents are Silvia Quintela — a surgeon who was kidnapped in 1997 while pregnant with Francisco — and her husband, Abel, who fled the country and lived in exile in Sweden until his return in 1983. He then became the secretary of the Abuelas association and the first male member of the very group Francisco approached just a couple months ago. Silvia is still missing and disappeared shortly after delivering Francisco while imprisoned in military torture torture camp.
Francisco Madariaga Quintela is warmly welcomed by members of the human rights association Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo during a press conference in Buenos Aires on February 23, 2010. (photo: Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)
The reports in English are limited but these heartbreaking images of Francisco, Abel, and members of the Abuelas help tell the story. I only wish I spoke Spanish so I could learn more about the experience of this reunited father and son. As I look at the pictures of other children of the disappeared from our slide show, I also wish for more hopeful moments like this one.
Top photo: Abel Madariaga embraces his son Francisco Madariaga Quintela as he wipes a tear during a press conference in Buenos Aires on February 23, 2010. (photo: Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)