Alisa Clare Cohen, Silvia Beatriz Córdova: reunites with birth parents.
There were no words, only tears of joy and a hug.
It was a hug Silvia Beatriz Córdova wishes she could’ve given her daughter 36 years ago.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life to find my mother,” Alisa Clare Cohen said.
She grew up in the United States with her adoptive parents. She said they were always forthcoming about her adoption and the country she came from.
“And the story that I was told was that my family had essentially never meant to keep me,” Cohen explained.
But Cohen said she always wondered if she had truly been abandoned, as her adoption documents state.
She contacted Chilean authorities in February to ask for help in finding her biological parents.
Cohen got the answer she was hoping for. Her biological parents were still alive and very eager to meet her.
Córdova, Cohen’s biological mother, said she never intended to give her up for adoption.
“No, no, no. Never, never,” Córdova said. ”I had already made a bassinet for her. I made it myself. I made it when I learned I was in the third month of my pregnancy.”
Córdova says she had a very difficult labor and nearly died.
“I saw her when she was born and didn’t see her again. I was hospitalized for three to four months,” Córdova recalled.
During that time, she, her husband and other members of the family asked employees at the state-run hospital about their daughter, but they never saw her again.
Chile was living under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and Córdova and her family feared that asking too many questions would put them in danger.
“With the politics at the time and adoption not being regulated until years after I was adopted, even looking at the social worker that processed my adoption, there were a lot of things, elements of it that were just incomplete and inconsistent with what I was told,” Cohen said.
Chilean government officials believe there were so many questionable adoptions back then that authorities now have a name for babies like Alisa.
They’re called “children of silence.” They’re babies who were taken away from their biological parents in the 70s and 80s, in many cases without their consent or knowledge, and given to adoptive parents.
Those children are now in their 30s and 40s and are asking questions about a secret that was kept for four decades.
There are several documented cases of adoptions like these, including that of Travis Tolliver, who was also raised by American adoptive parents and didn’t meet his biological mother until he was 41 years old.
“I was wanted, you know? I wasn’t given up willingly like I thought for all these years. So, that makes my heart feel wonderful,” Tolliver explained.
In 2015, Chilean authorities named a special prosecutor to begin investigating a list of these so-called “irregular adoptions,” a list that is reported to include nearly 600 families.
Constanza del Río heads an organization that helps families find each other and has an even larger list.
“We have 3,000 people that are looking for them,” del Río said. “These are adopted people and families that are looking for these babies that were stolen from them.”
She said during those decades, there were entire mafias stealing babies from impoverished families to profit from their sale, while the Pinochet government looked the other way or simply ignored victims.
“Who’s responsible for this? Doctors, midwives and social assistants that were looking for poor people to stole (sic) their kids because we need to understand that these kids were sold,” del Río said. “This wasn’t for a good thing. They were a mafia selling babies to outside chile.”
There will always be unanswered questions.
The hospital where Cohen was born no longer exists and the same goes for the adoption agency.
For now, it doesn’t matter.
Cohen’s adoptive parents passed away a few years ago, so she said her Chilean family, and an adopted sister, are all she’s got.
“It’s my mom. It’s my family,” Cohen said. “You always want to know where you came from.”
Neither one of them speaks the other’s language, but the love between a mother and her child, they say, knows no barriers.