Becoming Victoria

Article Contributed by Guest Author Patrick B. McLaughlin M.A., M.Ed.

Argentina is finally coming to terms with the atrocious events that occurred during the late seventies and early eighties, known as the “Dirty Wars.”

In addition to torturing and murdering so-called “dissidents” – often by dumping them from a helicopter into the ocean or Rio del Plato – officials of the junta also removed babies from their parents, falsified birth certificates and gave the babies up for “adoption.” These babies were often appropriated to those associated with the military regime.

Among the estimated 500 babies who lost their identity was one named Victoria Montenegro. All her life she knew herself as Maria Sol, the name given to her by her adoptive parents, Colonel Tetzlaff and his wife. Victoria was four months old at the time of her appropriation.

Due in great part to efforts by one of the world’s most renowned human rights groups, known as the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Maria Sol’s true identity was finally revealed to her; while those who had carried out so many atrocities were ultimately brought to trial. Not only did she choose to revert to the name Victoria Montenegro, which her vanished parents had given her, she faced reconstructing an identity within her legitimate family of origin whose very existence had been unknown to her.

Every unforeseen event in our lives – the loss of a job, the death of a family member, the devastating termination of a friendship, a vicious divorce, or the shock of discovering that one’s future has been shattered by serious illness – will require the life-affirming strengths of resilience and personal power. The ability to call on these strengths within ourselves when we need them can mean the difference between adapting successfully and finding ourselves stuck or unable to cope.

We can only imagine the blend of inner strengths that Maria Sol/ Victoria Montenegro drew upon when, to her horror, she discovered she was not the person she thought she was. She had to face the devastating truth that her military father had been instrumental in the elimination of those who had been so cruelly deprived of the joy of raising their child. And they had been eliminated because they questioned a particular political view.

On the journey of creating a new identity, Victoria also showed extreme competence in empathy when she made the choice to care for her dying “father” despite the circumstances. Her quality of personal agility has clearly been essential in her continued success at adapting to remarkable challenges.

Should you wish to hear this documentary, go to Radio Canada, The Current. Click Episodes and you will find “Becoming Victoria; Argentina’s Dirty War.”

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