Several papers had feature stories this week about Suzanne Marie Berghaus, who as a baby had been adopted by parents from Massachusetts, who never knew that she had been forcibly taken from her birth parents by soldiers during El Salvador's civil war. This week Ms. Berghaus was reunited with her birth parents in El Salvador:
Ms. Berghaus, a 26-year-old from the Boston suburbs, walked into a humble homestead here in rural El Salvador on Tuesday and spotted someone a generation older with a face that resembled her own but whom she did not know. Then, mother and daughter embraced.
Soon after, others came for hugs of their own. Confronted with siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews — strangers all — Ms. Berghaus wiped tears from her cheeks. “Hola,” she said, one of the few Spanish words she knows.
This was a family reunion of a most unusual sort. Wrapped in it was a profound personal story as well as that of El Salvador’s bitter civil war, which long ago came to a formal end but still haunts this country in ways large and small.
At age 14 months, Ms. Berghaus had been plucked from a hammock by a government soldier, one of numerous babies snatched by the military during the war in what was part counterinsurgency strategy and part business venture.
Many of the stolen children were sent to orphanages, where they were adopted internationally in a wartime system that had tinges of compassion and greed. (more from the New York Times)
The reunion was also chronicled in the International Herald Tribune and the Boston Globe. The Boston Globe also had a photo gallery from the reunion.
This story highlights the work of Asociación Pro-Busqueda, the organization, founded by Father Jon Cortina, which works to help Salvadoran families find the thousands of children kidnapped or otherwise "disappeared" during the civil war. From Pro-Busqueda's web site:
Pro-Busqueda was founded on the basis of a simple but brutal question that rips with pain the hearts of the mothers and fathers who live in anguish: Where is my son? Where is my daughter? From these questions the Association has over time evolved its mission to its now solid form of to “Search and locate children who disappeared as a result of the armed conflict in El Salvador, and once found, to promote the reunification and reintegration of the family unit. In this fashion the demands for truth, justice and reparation, which the victims have against the Salvadoran state, come to pass.”
Another of Pro-Busqeda's success stories is story of Nelson (or Roberto when he was a baby in El Salvador). Nelson has set up a blog where his families' stories are told called Ana's Miracle. It's dedicated to his mother, a guerilla fighter who was killed and her baby boy placed in an orphanage.