Chicha Mariani, Argentine activist, who led the search for children abducted during dictatorship, dies

The 94-year-old died after 40 years of tireless search for her granddaughter, Clara Anahi, who was kidnapped when she was just a baby after a military operation in November 1976. She died without finding her

August 22, 2018 by Peoples Dispatch

María Isabel Chorobik de Mariani, popularly known as Chicha Mariani, an eminent Argentine human rights activist, one of the founders of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and a tireless fighter in finding the whereabouts of her granddaughter Clara Anahi Mariani, died on Monday afternoon in the city of La Plata, Argentina. She was in a hospital for more than a week after having suffered a stroke.

On March 24, 1976, the military regime , the National Reorganization Process, headed by General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and Brigadier-General Orlando Ramón Agosti overthrew then Argentine President Isabel Peron through a military coup d’etat and remained in power until December 10, 1983. Between 1976 and 1983, over 30,000 people suspected of being against the military dictatorship of Videla were disappeared. In addition, hundreds of babies were abducted from their parents and they, along with those born to activists held captive by the military, were stolen by military families, sold or abandoned into government institutions.

Chicha, along with other other women, founded of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a non-governmental organization, in 1977 with the objective of finding and returning to their legitimate families all the children stolen, disappeared and illegally adopted during the dictatorship. In 1989, Chicha separated from the Grandmothers and in 1996, founded a human rights organization called the Anahi Association in honor of her missing granddaughter.

Chicha worked extensively in the city of La Plata where the search for her granddaughter was transformed into a cause that reached a large part of the community. On November 21, 1976, her son’s house was attacked by soldiers on the order of the genocidal Miguel Osvaldo Etchecolatz [director of police investigations of the province of Buenos Aires during the dictatorship] and during the attack her daughter-in-law was killed and Clara Anahi was abducted. The house has since  functioned as a space of memory where several visits and events are held on important dates.

Last week, on the occasion on Clara Anahi’s birth anniversary, balloons were released as a symbol of the continuing search for her.

Chicha’s health gradually deteriorated after a disturbing incident in 2015 when a woman showed up claiming that she was her granddaughter and it ended up being a lie.

The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo released a solidarity statement bidding farewell to Chicha: “We say goodbye with great sadness to the member of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and the president of the Clara Anahi Foundation, to an important woman in the early days of the search for the children taken by State terrorism and a symbol of the struggle for human rights. María Isabel “Chicha” Chorobik de Mariani was one of the 12 founders of the Grandmothers. She, with Alicia “Licha” Subaznabar of De la Cuadra, began to meet in the city of La Plata together with other mothers to find a way to find their grandchildren. Chicha’s three-month-old granddaughter Clara Anahi, disappeared after a brutal operation in the house they lived in. From testimonies, it was learned that the girl was taken alive from the house. Since then, Chicha and the grandmothers are looking for Clara Anahi. Dear Chicha, we will keep looking for her, along with all the other grandchildren that are missing.”