María Isabel Chorobik de Mariani, Crusading Argentine Grandmother, Dies at 94

María Isabel Chorobik de Mariani was president of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which led an agonizing search for hundreds of children “disappeared” by Argentina’s military rulers.

BUENOS AIRES — María Isabel Chorobik de Mariani, who stood up to Argentina’s military junta during the 1970s in the search for abducted children as a founder of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, died on Monday in La Plata, near Buenos Aires. She was 94, having never found the granddaughter she lost

José Luis Mansur, Ms. Mariani’s doctor, said the cause was respiratory complications of a stroke she suffered on Aug. 7.

Ms. Mariani, who went by the nickname “Chicha,” was one of the most emblematic figures of a movement formed by women who were searching for hundreds of babies stolen from their parents under the brutal military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

Over more than 40 years she gained wide attention for efforts that were instrumental in the pursuit of justice for the crimes the state committed during that era, all the while holding out hope of finding her granddaughter, Clara Anahí, who was 3 months old when she disappeared.

Human rights activists say as many as 30,000 people were killed or forcibly made to disappear under the military junta. Roughly 500 newborns are believed to have been kidnapped from political prisoners.

Ms. Mariani played an important role in setting up a system that enabled the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to discover the identity of scores of children taken from their parents and locate them. So far, 128 of the abducted, now in adulthood, have been reunited, or at least connected, with blood relatives.

On Nov. 24, 1976, military and law enforcement officers descended on the home of Ms. Mariani’s son, Daniel Enrique Mariani, and his wife, Diana Esmeralda Teruggi, as part of an official campaign against people deemed to be subversives. The home, in La Plata, housed a printing press for the armed leftist group the Montoneros.

Ms. Teruggi and four others were killed in the raid. Mr. Mariani was not home at the time, but he was killed less than a year later, in August 1977.

Although military officers claimed that Clara Anahí had also died, witnesses said they had seen her being removed from the home.

Convinced that her granddaughter had survived, Ms. Mariani joined forces with another grandmother, Alicia Zubasnabar de la Cuadra, whose pregnant daughter had been detained by military officers.

The two women gathered 10 others to form the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo in November 1977. Simultaneously, another group, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, sought information about adults who had seemingly vanished without a trace.

Ms. Mariani was the second president of the grandmothers’ group and led it until 1989. As part of her work with the group, she helped introduce blood tests as a way of matching people thought to be the children of the disappeared and their grandparents. She later set up a nonprofit organization in her granddaughter’s name.

In a statement, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo said that Ms. Mariani had been “fundamental in the start of the search for the boys and girls who were appropriated by state terrorism.”

Political and human rights leaders vowed to continue the search for Clara Anahí.

In 2006, Ms. Mariani confronted Miguel Etchecolatz, a retired police commissioner, at his trial for his involvement in the state terror. She accused him of knowing where her granddaughter had been taken.

“I see police commissioner Etchecolatz with the rosary,” she said, “and I’d like to ask that instead of praying to the rosary he should alleviate his conscience and say where Clara Anahí is, because he knows.”

He did not respond, but years later said he had been told that the baby had died in the attack.

Mr. Etchecolatz was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Ms. Mariani had a glimmer of hope in December 2015 when a woman claimed that she was her long-lost granddaughter. But a blood test proved otherwise.

“That was a difficult situation that to this day I don’t quite understand,” said Elsa Pavón, who leads the Anahí foundation. “It hit Chicha hard, but she was strong and she was determined not to let anything stop her from her search.”

Ms. Mariani was born Nov. 19, 1923, in San Rafael, in western Mendoza Province. In 1947, she married Enrique José Mariani, who died in 2003. No immediate family members survive.

Ms. Mariani’s long years in pursuit of justice took their toll.

“I’ve sometimes felt bad, tired and disappointed in life, people and things,” she said in an interview with Spain’sEl Mundo newspaper in 2015. “I’ve even had so much fatigue that I think it’s time to go.

“But I always react and tell myself, I can’t die,” she said. “I don’t have the right to die without having found Clara Anahí.”

In Other News

María Isabel Chorobik de Mariani, Crusading Argentine Grandmother, Dies at 94

María Isabel Chorobik de Mariani was president of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which led an agonizing search for hundreds of children “disappeared” by Argentina’s military rulers.

BUENOS AIRES — María Isabel Chorobik de Mariani, who stood up to Argentina’s military junta during the 1970s in the search for abducted children as a founder of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, died on Monday in La Plata, near Buenos Aires. She was 94, having never found the granddaughter she lost

José Luis Mansur, Ms. Mariani’s doctor, said the cause was respiratory complications of a stroke she suffered on Aug. 7.

Ms. Mariani, who went by the nickname “Chicha,” was one of the most emblematic figures of a movement formed by women who were searching for hundreds of babies stolen from their parents under the brutal military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

Over more than 40 years she gained wide attention for efforts that were instrumental in the pursuit of justice for the crimes the state committed during that era, all the while holding out hope of finding her granddaughter, Clara Anahí, who was 3 months old when she disappeared.

Human rights activists say as many as 30,000 people were killed or forcibly made to disappear under the military junta. Roughly 500 newborns are believed to have been kidnapped from political prisoners.

Ms. Mariani played an important role in setting up a system that enabled the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to discover the identity of scores of children taken from their parents and locate them. So far, 128 of the abducted, now in adulthood, have been reunited, or at least connected, with blood relatives.

On Nov. 24, 1976, military and law enforcement officers descended on the home of Ms. Mariani’s son, Daniel Enrique Mariani, and his wife, Diana Esmeralda Teruggi, as part of an official campaign against people deemed to be subversives. The home, in La Plata, housed a printing press for the armed leftist group the Montoneros.

Ms. Teruggi and four others were killed in the raid. Mr. Mariani was not home at the time, but he was killed less than a year later, in August 1977.

Although military officers claimed that Clara Anahí had also died, witnesses said they had seen her being removed from the home.

Convinced that her granddaughter had survived, Ms. Mariani joined forces with another grandmother, Alicia Zubasnabar de la Cuadra, whose pregnant daughter had been detained by military officers.

The two women gathered 10 others to form the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo in November 1977. Simultaneously, another group, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, sought information about adults who had seemingly vanished without a trace.

Ms. Mariani was the second president of the grandmothers’ group and led it until 1989. As part of her work with the group, she helped introduce blood tests as a way of matching people thought to be the children of the disappeared and their grandparents. She later set up a nonprofit organization in her granddaughter’s name.

In a statement, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo said that Ms. Mariani had been “fundamental in the start of the search for the boys and girls who were appropriated by state terrorism.”

Political and human rights leaders vowed to continue the search for Clara Anahí.

In 2006, Ms. Mariani confronted Miguel Etchecolatz, a retired police commissioner, at his trial for his involvement in the state terror. She accused him of knowing where her granddaughter had been taken.

“I see police commissioner Etchecolatz with the rosary,” she said, “and I’d like to ask that instead of praying to the rosary he should alleviate his conscience and say where Clara Anahí is, because he knows.”

He did not respond, but years later said he had been told that the baby had died in the attack.

Mr. Etchecolatz was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Ms. Mariani had a glimmer of hope in December 2015 when a woman claimed that she was her long-lost granddaughter. But a blood test proved otherwise.

“That was a difficult situation that to this day I don’t quite understand,” said Elsa Pavón, who leads the Anahí foundation. “It hit Chicha hard, but she was strong and she was determined not to let anything stop her from her search.”

Ms. Mariani was born Nov. 19, 1923, in San Rafael, in western Mendoza Province. In 1947, she married Enrique José Mariani, who died in 2003. No immediate family members survive.

Ms. Mariani’s long years in pursuit of justice took their toll.

“I’ve sometimes felt bad, tired and disappointed in life, people and things,” she said in an interview with Spain’sEl Mundo newspaper in 2015. “I’ve even had so much fatigue that I think it’s time to go.

“But I always react and tell myself, I can’t die,” she said. “I don’t have the right to die without having found Clara Anahí.”

In Other News

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