Maria Esther Gatti de Islas, a fighter for good, dies at 92


Maria Esther Gatti, member of the group of relatives of disappeared during the Uruguay's last dictatorship (1973-84)

In this palpably ambiguous moral universe we call Earth, a child represents, to many, the closest approximation of innocence.

Thus, when an event transpires to inflict harm unto a child, the poignancy of the wrong escalates and stands a better chance of penetrating the substantial walls of defense we build to protect our minds from despair.

Yet even with a breach of those walls, all too often the mind adapts, rationalizes, and creates mass ineptitude in the face of indisputable evil.

That’s why Maria Esther Gatti de Islas’s life is so important. She took the required step of action.

Her Life

In 1976, Gatti’s daughter, son-in law, and 18-month-old granddaughter vanished, abducted by Uruguay’s military dictatorship. Gatti fought for justice, working  with the Argentine Organization of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo to start the Uruguayan Association of Relatives of the Disappeared.

16 years later, after the restoration of democracy to Uruguay and Argentina, Gatti’s granddaughter, Mariana Zaffaroni, was found  living with a family of a former official of Argentina’s repressive regime. Her kidnappers were punished, the granddaughter’s identity restored.

Yet the fate of her daughter and son-in-law is still not known. To this day, a total of 30 Uruguayans and 300 from Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay  who went missing under military dictatorships are still unaccounted for.

Maria Esther Gatti had to wait until she was 74 years old to be reunited with her granddaughter. Even though she was likely joyful for her return, the weight of a vanished daughter must have been hard to bear.

Yet despite everything–Gatti succeeded.  She helped herself and others right a grave wrong: recovering long-lost loved ones and ensuring that those who committed these abominable acts were and still continue to be held accountable.

Presently and in the years to come, others–be they a person,  a military dictatorship,  democracy, or extralegal organization–, in vying to pursue an objective, be it noble or not, will commit similar abominable acts. The victims, all too often, will be innocents such as Mariana Zaffaroni.  But there will also be vigilant people out there to counter the wrongs.

Maria Esther Gatti’s actions serve as in inspiration for more to be an active force in preventing the ugly rather than to simply click away.



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