NEW YORK, May 15 /PRNewswire/ — Horacio Pietragalla was just an infant the day his mother buried him under pillows to protect him before she herself was killed in a hail of gunfire by soldiers storming her home. His father died an equally violent death. Both parents were student activists who fell afoul of the brutal military dictatorship that gripped Argentina from 1976 to 1983 and forced the disappearance of an estimated 30,000 people. Many of the children of those who disappeared were kidnapped and raised by surrogate parents. Horacio was one of them. The feature-length documentary THE DISAPPEARED tells the remarkable story of how, after being raised for years by surrogate parents, Horacio pieces together clues about his true origin and is reunited with his biological family. THE DISAPPEARED premieres Sunday, June 8 at 9pm ET on HISTORY EN ESPANOL.
Even though he couldn’t remember his real parents, Horacio sensed something was amiss with the family in which he grew up. Why was he so different from Chacho and Lina — the man and woman he called his parents? Why was he so much taller than either of them? And why, when he was baptized, did Lina choose as his godfather the cigar-smoking military officer for whom she worked as a maid? Horacio began to suspect that he was the son of desaparecidos, victims of political violence at the hands of Argentina’s post-Peronist government. Over the years, his doubts grew — along with the evidence. His then-fiancee found a photo of a woman holding an infant resembling him on the website of a human rights group. A neighbor who was also a child of desaparecidos told Horacio he was brought to the building as an infant. And finally a DNA test confirmed his doubts: He was in fact the son of murdered dissenters Liliana Corti and Horacio Pietragalla, Sr.
When Horacio met with surviving members of his biological family, there was immediate recognition. Relatives said he was just like his father, down to his body language. But the reunion left him torn between two families. He felt betrayed by his surrogate parents, who had lied to him for decades. If they had told him the truth earlier, they could have spared his real family much suffering — his grandfather would have died knowing he had been found, and perhaps his grandmother would not have committed suicide. Nor would Horacio have grown up under the watchful eye of the military officer, whom he now knew had kidnapped him after his mother’s murder.
Filmed in Argentina and directed and produced by former NBC reporter Peter Sanders, THE DISAPPEARED chronicles the darkest period in the history of contemporary Argentina, following the collapse of the Peronist government. At the bidding of top military officials, thousands of union laborers, students, activists and other perceived “enemies of the state” were arrested, tortured, held in concentration camps and murdered. A particularly harrowing account comes from a reporter who describes prisoners being drugged, loaded onto airplanes and then tossed alive from the airborne craft into a river.
The documentary is based on intimate interviews with Horacio, his surrogate parents, members of his biological family, his friends and his neighbors. It also features interviews with survivors and witnesses of the atrocities, members of the human rights group Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, government officials and high-ranking military personnel on both sides of the issue.
THE DISAPPEARED represents the first time a filmmaker has followed a child of desaparecidos through the painful journey of searching for and discovering his true identity. It also documents the first case of a child of desaparecidos being reunited with his biological family and finding the remains of both parents. But when so many years have been stolen, closure is not an option: “I see pictures of my mom and on days like this one I feel a huge need to hug her and to kiss her, to have a glass of wine with my dad,” says Horacio. “These are the things one longs for, but they are missing, and that’s what happened to us … it hurts.”
THE DISAPPEARED is directed, produced and executive produced by Peter Sanders. Original music by Gustavo Beytelmann.
HISTORY EN ESPANOL(TM) is a 24-hour television network dedicated to the Spanish-speaking audience in the United States. It presents a wide range of Spanish-language programming that focuses on the great dramatic moments and events as well as the pivotal figures in history. HISTORY EN ESPANOL is one of four domestic television networks of the History brand. HISTORY EN ESPANOL has emerged as the new “must have” for distributors. The network is now available nationally on DishLATINO and on the nation’s top cable systems including Comcast, Charter, Insight, Cox, Cablevision, and NCTC, representing more than 29 million subs in key Hispanic markets across the United States. The channel’s website is located at www.history.com/espanol.
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