Chilean Mothers’ Long Search for Babies Stolen During Pinochet’s Dictatorship

Naomi Larsson Piñeda - Open Democracy

Gladys Muñoz remembers her baby’s first cries as clearly as if they were yesterday. She holds onto that moment from 44 years ago, including her quick glance at his tiny feet – a memory she has fought to keep close in her mind as time has passed. It’s the only proof she really has that her child even existed.

Alberto was born premature to 17-year-old Muñoz and her husband on 10 April 1979 in a hospital in Providencia, a neighbourhood in the Chilean capital Santiago. Over the following days, as she recovered in hospital, Muñoz says she was denied access to her son.

Muñoz was told Alberto had been put in an incubator. All requests to see him or hold him were shut down. All she knew about him was his size and weight: 35 centimetres; one kilo and 325 grams. Looking back, even this might not be true.

Five days later, she was told her son had died. The hospital claimed he had been stillborn and was being held for scientific research. All she had to mourn her child were the clothes she had ready for him; there was no body, no memorial, not even a death certificate.