Journalism in the Public Interest


Podcast: How We Found Oscar


Oscar Alfredo Ramírez Castañeda holds an undated photo of Lt. Oscar Ovidio Ramírez Ramos in the kitchen of his home in Framingham, Mass., on May 13, 2012. (Matthew Healey for ProPublica)

In 1982, the small Guatemalan village of Dos Erres was invaded by a group of army commandos known as the Kaibiles. More than 250 men, women and children were slaughtered. One of the few survivors, a 3-year-old boy, was abducted by a Kaibil officer and later raised by the soldier's family.

Oscar Alfredo Ramírez Castañeda knew nothing of his true identity — until last summer, when Guatemalan prosecutors investigating the Dos Erres massacre tracked him down.

In ProPublica's latest investigation, senior reporter Sebastian Rotella tells the story of how Oscar, an illegal immigrant working two jobs to support his family, became living proof of one of Guatemala's worst civil war atrocities. His editor, Tom Detzel, joins the podcast this week to explain how we found the story, why we took a different approach in telling it and more.

You can read "Finding Oscar: Massacre, Memory and Justice in Guatemala" on our site or purchase the eBook version here. The story was co-reported with This American Life from WBEZ Chicago, which produced a one-hour radio version. Also co-reporting was Fundación MEPI in Mexico City, which published the story in Spanish.

We hope you'll subscribe to all of ProPublica's podcasts on iTunes.

Claudia de Leon

May 31, 2012, 5:36 a.m.

My cousin disappeared during a University protest, just one of more than 100K still missing from the civil war.

Adriana Portillo-Bartow

June 2, 2012, 5:28 p.m.

Everytime I hear about a father, a mother, grandparents, siblings and other relatives reuniting with children disappeared in Guatemala during the war, I cry out of happines for them, but I also cry because after 30 years of searching for my two daughters Rosaura (10) and Glenda (9), and my sister Alma (18 months), disappeared in 1981, my search has produced no results. Everything I have done has lead me to nowhere. I have been told that they may be in Villahermosa, Tabasco, México, but I have been unable to locate them. Perhaps ProPublica would be willing to assist me with my search?

Regardless of whether or not you can help me, I thank you for all thework you did to find Oscar and for giving them both the gift of being reunited after so many years.



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