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Unveiling Lost Identities: The Artistic Quest of IAbuelas and Argentina’s Dark History

One Artist is Using AI to help heal the lingering wounds in Argentine society

Unveiling Lost Identities: The Artistic Quest of IAbuelas and Argentina's Dark History
AI Artist is creating images of abducted children during a dark time of Argentina’s history

The haunting legacy of Argentina’s military dictatorship during the 1970s and 1980s lingers in the painful memories of violations to it’s people. Particularly the abduction of countless babies from their murdered or disappeared parents. Left with no knowledge of their true identity, these children were handed over to other families that were committed to the regime.

For over forty years, the brave Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have been relentlessly seeking their absent family members. They have been utilizing DNA tests, public campaigns and even tough legal battles to reunite them with their missing family members.

In a unique endeavor to give notice and stir curiosity among the potential grandchildren, AI artist Santiago Barros has crafted the IAbuelas project. Using artificial intelligence, Barros generates images of what these lost children may look like at this current time. The aim is to provoke emotions, encourage self-reflection, and promote healing in Argentine society.

The Symbolic Artistry of IAbuelas:

Barros employs Midjourney, a tool capable of creating realistic portraits based on parents’ photos. He has sourced his images of the childrens parents from the grandmothers of plaza de mayo. He takes these images and puts them through Midjourney. This AI tool blends their features to generate new images.

The artist then applies an aging filter to approximate the children’s age today—late forties—and shares these symbolic images on Instagram, accompanied by details about the parents of the child and estimated dates of birth for the children.

Beyond Accuracy: An Artistic Journey:


While these images are not scientifically precise, Barros embraces their symbolic nature. Due to a lack of data, some children were taken shortly after birth, leaving uncertainties about their gender. Additionally, the images do not reflect Argentina’s ethnic diversity or the natural imperfections of aging.

Acknowledging these limitations, Barros emphasizes his aim is not to create replicas of what the children would look like today, but more to invoke reactions and emotions within the community and the rest of the world. He desires for viewers to feel as though the images are looking back at them, compelling them to act.

Midjourney is really good at creating realistic looking people
Midjourney is really good at creating realistic looking people

Mixed Responses and Empowering Awareness

IAbuelas has elicited diverse reactions from the public. Some laud its creativity and sensitivity, while others criticize its inaccuracies and sensationalism. Remarkably, some claim to recognize themselves or someone they know in the images, though Barros believes this to be improbable.

He concedes that the project may not directly lead to reunions but hopes it will kindle awareness and curiosity among potential grandchildren and society at large. He encourages people to take DNA tests or reach out to the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who possess a vast database of relatives willing to provide blood samples for comparison.

A Personal Mission

For Barros, IAbuelas holds a deeply personal significance. His family suffered from the kidnappings, as his pregnant aunt was abducted by the military in 1977, and her baby was never found.

Growing up with this haunting tale, Barros shares a profound connection with the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and their unwavering struggle. Through his artistic and design skills, he seeks to contribute to their cause and honor their memory.

Art, AI, and Healing


IAbuelas exemplifies how artificial intelligence transcends its commercial and technical applications to serve artistic and social purposes. It stands as a testament to art’s power to challenge, provoke, and inspire self-exploration of history and identity.

The project uniquely amalgamates technology and humanity in a quest to heal the lingering wounds in Argentine society, leaving an indelible mark on the fight for truth, justice, and reconnection with lost identities.


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