«I, a Chilean child stolen and taken to Italy, returned to my family when I grew up»

Of Virginia Nesi

In Sardinia there are 500 Chileans who during the Pinochet dictatorship were taken from their families of origin and given up for adoption. Claudio Puddu: «My Italian father needed an heir». Consuelo Tarantino: “When my adoptive mother died, I was reborn”

Claudio Puddu, Claudio Eliseo Rojas Ramirez, Pasqualino Puddu Artizzu and Claudio Rojas Ramirez I’m the same person. When we meet him, Claudio (he wants us to call him that), 45 years old, has just picked up his daughter from school. We are in Selargius, a town in the province of Cagliari. And he starts right here, from the city of his adoptive parents, to tell the story of two unknown families that from one side of the ocean to the other
they make him a son twice
and man with four identities. Like 500 other Chilean children, Claudio was taken from his family of origin and given up for adoption in Sardinia during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

It all begins in Santiago de Chile, New Year’s Eve 1979. The biological mother and father are 16 and 19 years old. To celebrate they go out and leave him at home for over 24 hours together with their brother Lucho Luis. They cry and the neighbors call the police. “There they separated me from my parents– tells-. He found us with dirty laundry. I guess my father and mother were very poor, mum worked as a prostitute in a café con piernas». Lucho Luis takes him to the pediatric hospital because he is over 18 months old, Claudio on the other hand to national service for minors. «They manage to recover my brother, but I do I am adoptable because my father is illiterate and he can’t read the letters that come from the judge», he continues. «In Italy they adopt me to fulfill two needs: my mother’s desire for motherhood and that of have an heir from my father» explains Claudio. The decision to have a Chilean child is not accidental: “there was a parish in the village that had a mission in Chile,” he explains.

When his mother leaves Italy, he is two and a half years old, she is 47 years old. On the birth document, Claudio is Claudio Eliseo Rojas Ramirez, born on November 30, 1977. To give him up for adoption with a different name – it would have been Pasqualino like his grandfather – and the surnames of the two Italian parents Puddu Artizzu, they issue a second document. But on the certificate, Chilean institutions change the date and they write on November 8, 1978. «There my mother realizes that in this way she could not present the document to the juvenile court, the age difference exceeded 45 years. She then she asks for have another document with the right date of birth, the name Pasqualino Puddu had already been used, so they rewrote Claudio Rojas Ramirez», he specifies.

Today, another name can be read on his identity card: Claudio Puddu. But in Selargius everyone calls him Pasquale, like his grandfather. «In kindergarten they called me “the Chinese boy” instead, since I was a child I know I was adoptedmy parents they didn’t hide it from me“, He says. Claudio tells without anger while he looks at the road that leads to Baunei, a town of over three thousand souls, in the province of Nuoro. He wants to show us the Ogliastra area: «Here there was a greater influx of adoptive children because in the 1970s there were many nuns who were sent on mission to Chile».

«In Chile a journalistic investigation brought to light numerous illegal adoptions of children born in hospital or clinics and then entrusted to other families», confirms Marisol Rodríguez, founder and spokesperson for Hijos y Madres del Silencio. She founds the association to find her sister. In 1972 her mother had her first daughter. But as soon as she gives birth the doctors tell her who she is stillborn: «She never saw her, nor did they give her the body: my sister she may be alive abroad like so many children found in the United States, France, Sweden, Italy”.

Claudio has been working in the Association since 2016 Chilenos de Serdeña and is the Italian representative of Hijos y Madres del Silencio, together with volunteers help Chilean mothers find theirs

children. He returned to Chile at the age of 26 with a project for an NGO. On that journey he finds his father, mother, brothers, sisters and nephews. With the help of the police he gets the addresses. “I arrive at my father’s house and a woman says: ‘Claudio, my husband’s lost son,'” he says. She invites him to dinner with the translator. Together they wait for their father to return from the illegal parking lot (the same one where he works now). «When I see my dad again, he shows me his identity card: he was crying, he kept telling me i was his sonhe had never forgotten me.”

The Chilean boys and girls who disappear in the 1970s and 1980s have a precise profile. “They were born in public hospitals, children of young women, sometimes alone, aged 13 to 17» explains Karen Alfaro, an academic at the Universidad Austral de Chile who has investigated illegal adoptions. Behind the appropriations, the need to implement a policy aimed at controlling the quality and quantity of the population. Then the historian adds: «There was an intervention above all in the rural sectors: they stole children from poor mothers unable to seek justice. The ideological and political principle was to defend the idea of ​​the nation”.

Chilean men and women victims of child trafficking there are at least 20,000 worldwide. “It is a crime of kidnapping because taking a boy or girl from one’s own country without the authorization or consent of the family means kidnap a minor. In that military era the State is not only an accomplice but an executor: in many cases the agents got involved», declares Ximena Rincón, senator of the Christian Democratic party of Chile. In order to be adoptable, it has been reported several times that boys and girls they had neither father nor mother.

«Reporting an NN, unidentifiable, presupposes that those who adopt you do a great charity. The existence of the parents is omitted», admits Claudio. When he returns to Chile, he also visits his mother. From Santiago to Iquique he covered more than 900 kilometers with his father. She lives in a toma, a Chilean favela: a room without heating with a bed for seven people. She also has a dog with an electric cord instead of a leash. «I said thank you to them: they could have had an abortion instead we had an opportunity. I don’t feel abandonedtoday I can say that I have four parents».

On the way to Ogliastra, Claudio reflects on the bond with his adoptive family: «There is a somewhat obligatory sense of gratitude which turns into silence. They make you understand that it was they who saved you from who knows what situation». Today most of the Italian parents who adopted Chilean children of that era are elderly. “You find them sitting in the kitchen, watching TV, you’re 40 and it’s not you». What does he mean? “You can’t really express yourself so as not to hurt them. Many adoptees have given up so many opportunities not to leave them alone. Claudio’s father died. His mother is 90 years old and bedridden, he is her guardian. «They never really felt like parents», he admits. Even if he says it calmly, it becomes difficult to unravel the plot of the responsibilities attributed to adoptive parents and the perception of a man who has experienced such a painful reality.

When we arrive in Baunei we meet Abel Geremias Fenude, 50, an adopted Chilean. He never met his biological mother.
“Do you think the orphanage hasn’t kept anything?” asks his partner Sonia Torchiani. «On your birthday how many people will have been born: 1, 2?» asks Claudio. «I don’t know if I was born on that day» replies Abel.
Some Chileans would like to spend their old age in Chile because they still feel they belong there. Like Consuelo Tarantino, 47, who arrived in Italy when she was five and a half years old. “As far as I know my father was a very influential politician that he had fallen in love with a little girl, my mother – he says –, I was the illegitimate daughter to hide». In her birth certificate, Consuelo is listed as NN: «When my Italian mother died I’m reborn: I closed a chapter that was hurting me. Now we have discovered that in Chile I could have a grandmother, I have to understand better ».

Claudio acts as an intermediary between Italy and Chile to solicit birth certificates. For years he has not tired of rebuilding suspended ties. At home he takes care of Geraldine Vanessa. They have lived together since he was 39, she was 10. In the car, on the return journey, Claudio has a smile stuck on his face when he talks about Vanessa. And between one story of one slice of life and another he says: «Everyone makes a reconstruction process. Fostering my daughter was my way of giving back what I had received.”

December 21, 2022 (change December 21, 2022 | 3:15 pm)

«I, a Chilean child stolen and taken to Italy, returned to my family when I grew up»