Abel Madariaga saw his 28-year-old wife, Silvia, being forced into a car by Argentine army officers on January 17, 1977. That was the last time he saw his pregnant wife. Silvia, a victim of evil politics as part of the 1976-1983 "dirty war" against political dissidents, was kidnapped and killed after giving birth. Some Argentinian rights groups believe that about 400 children were stolen at birth during this time from women who endured the same fate as Silvia.
Abel made it his life's ambition to find out what happened to his wife and child. When Argentina returned to democratic control, Abel lobbied the government to create a DNA database and dedicate judicial resources to the effort.
Abel's efforts paid off. After years of searching, he was able to find out what happened to his wife, though the details were sketchy and heartbreaking. Abel learned that his wife, Quintela, gave birth to their son in July of 1977 while imprisoned in a notorious torture center in Buenos Aires. The newborn, whom the couple had planned to name Francisco, was taken from his mother the day after he was born. Quintela was never seen again.
Abel's son, with umbilical cord still attached, was taken by a military intelligence officer, Victor Gallo, to his own home and his own wife, Ines. They named him Alejandro Ramiro Gallo and never told him anything about the circumstances of his birth or his adoption. But Francisco knew that something wasn't right. He never felt that he belonged to the Gallo family. He looked nothing like his brother and sister.
The marriage between Victor and Ines didn't last. Victor was a violent man. As the Gallo family fell apart, Francisco found a way out as a professional juggler touring Europe. Meanwhile, Victor Gallo was convicted of murdering a couple and their child during a robbery in 1994 and was sentenced to prison for ten years.
Eventually, Francisco worked up the courage to confront his "adoptive" mother, Ines. She broke down and told him what she knew. She didn't know who his parents were or where Victor got him. But she told the young man she knew and loved as her son, Alejandro, that he had been adopted. The news was a welcome relief to the increasing doubts that had haunted Francisco.
Francisco forgave Ines and the two of them determined together that they would try to find Francisco's family. Finally, some friends encouraged Francisco to get a blood test. On February 3, 2010, over 33 years after his mother was kidnapped, Francisco's blood was sent for DNA testing to a database set up by his own father, Abel Madariaga. A couple of weeks later, the DNA results arrived.
The test results told Francisco that Victor and Ines Gallo were not his parents. Gallo was not his real name. His real name was Madariaga and his father, Abel, was alive and searching for him. On Friday, February 19th, 2010, father and son embraced for the first time.
"When he came through the door that night, we recognized each other totally," said Abel to a large gathering of media cameras and microphones. "The hug that brought us together was spectacular. Hugging him that first time, it was as if I filled a hole in my soul," he said.
At age 59, Abel had never stopped believing that he would one day find his child. For 33 years, he searched the faces in the streets of Argentina, hoping to see his son.
At another news conference, Francisco, who had learned his real name only a few days earlier, said, "For the first time, I know who I was. Who I am."
The only time Francisco stopped smiling during the news conference was when the name Alejandro, given to him by the Gallos, was mentioned. Francisco stopped smiling and said, "Never again will I use that name. To have your identity is the most beautiful thing there is."
My soul identifies with the life story of Francisco Madariaga. Something inside me was missing. I wasn't complete. I wasn't whole. I was filled with holes.
Then I met the Father who never stopped searching for me. The Father who created a means by which I could find the identity He purposed for me. It wasn't through a blood test, but through a blood gift. He and His Son created a plan to help me find my way home. He gave His own Son as a willing sacrifice and substitute to purchase my invitation to come home.
Like Francisco, I now know who I am. I have my identity. I'm a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son. And I must agree with Francisco -- to have my identity is the most beautiful thing there is.
I must also agree with Abel -- the holes in my soul have been filled.
Home Where I Belong,