Inspiration & Research
My debut fiction novel is inspired by the work of the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and based on the events of Argentina’s last military dictatorship.
Between 1976 and 1983, human rights groups have estimated that 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and killed in Argentina. They are known as Argentina’s desaparecidos, or “the Disappeared.”
The Mothers of the Disappeared held vigils in the Plaza de Mayo – wearing white headscarves and appealing for justice for their missing daughters and sons – and ultimately gained international attention and human rights support.
Among the Disappeared were pregnant women and young children who were taken with their parents. Many of the approximately 500 children and babies born in captivity were given up for adoption – often to friends and family of the military – and raised without knowledge of their biological identity.
The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have continued to search for their reappropriated grandchildren, driving breakthroughs in genetics and international law in the process. Their search has endured for over 45 years. To date, the Grandmothers have found and identified 130 of their grandchildren.
I had the great privilege of getting to know the Grandmothers and many of their grandchildren while in Buenos Aires, where I conducted research for my master’s thesis as part of the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School University in New York City. During this time, I worked with the Identity Archive of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo at the University of Buenos Aires. The Identity Archive was created by children of the Disappeared as a means of preserving and memorializing identity for the biological children yet to be found.
As part of this research, I participated in interviews with members of the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, including Estela de Carlotto, Rosa Tarlovsky de Roisinblit, Buscarita Roa and Laura Conte, as well as many adult children of the Disappeared, Federal Judge Gabriel Cavallo, former desaparecido Mario César Villani, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, sociologist Daniel Feierstein and other activists, writers, musicians and citizens whose lives were affected by the Dirty War. I also attended demonstrations, theater performances, marches, former prison site excavations and other cultural memorials and tributes to the Disappeared throughout Buenos Aires and La Plata.
After completing a thesis on the role of the feminine in post-conflict cultural healing – with the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo as a primary case study – I remained tremendously interested in the experience of the children whose identities were stolen during Argentina’s Dirty War. I was equally interested in Operation Condor, the intelligence alliance between South American military dictatorships backed by the United States at that time.
These explorations inspired the work of fiction that eventually became my first novel. In 2020, this manuscript was selected as the winner of the WFWA Rising Star Award for unpublished fiction.
To learn more about the real work of the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the Disappeared and/or Argentina’s Dirty War, I highly recommend reading:
My Name is Victoria by Victoria Donda
Searching For Life by Rita Arditti
The Rabbit House, An Argentinian Childhood by Laura Alcoba
The Little School, Tales of Disappearance and Survival by Alicia Partnoy
The Flight, Confessions of an Argentine Dirty Warrior by Horacio Verbitsky
A Lexicon of Terror, Argentina and the Legacies of Torture by Marguerite Feitlowitz
Revolutionizing Motherhood, The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo by Marguerite Guzman Bouvard
Disappearing Acts, Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina’s Dirty War by Diana Taylor
Nunca Mas, A Report by Argentina’s National Commission on Disappeared People
“We have followed events in Argentina closely. We wish the government well. We wish it will succeed. We will do what can to help it succeed. We are aware you are in a difficult period. It is a curious time, when political, criminal and terrorist activities tend to merge without any clear separation. We understand you must establish authority.”
- U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Argentine Admiral Cesar Augusto Guzzetti, June 6th 1976
“It takes courage for a society to address uncomfortable truths about darker parts of its past. Confronting crimes committed by our own leaders, by our own people – that can be divisive and frustrating. But it’s essential to moving forward; to building a peaceful and prosperous future in a country that respects the rights of all its citizens.
There’s been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days, and the United States, when it reflects on what happened here, has to examine its own policies as well, and its own past.”
- President Barack Obama at Parque de la Memoria, Argentina, March 24th 2016, in remarks honoring the victims of the Argentinian military dictatorship