Saturday, July 30, 2011

Where are the children?

Almost twenty years after El Salvador's civil war ended, efforts to reunite families go on, as described by the LA Times:

"They took my girl and said, 'Go, old lady!'" recalled her mother, Enma Orellana. The woman ran in fear, looking back just once, when the girl cried, "Mama!"

That was 29 years ago, when El Salvador waged war with itself and left hurts that have never healed. In the turmoil, more than 800 children disappeared, often into the hands of Salvadoran soldiers who used brutal tactics to battle leftist rebels and sympathizers.

The youngsters, including some whose parents had died, often ended up in orphanages under made-up names. Many were funneled by unscrupulous lawyers into a lucrative international adoption market or kept by the same military officers who took them. At least 400 remain missing.

Two decades after the end of the civil war, many Salvadoran parents — and, often, the children themselves — still search for loved ones, despite dimming memories and a trail that grows fainter each day.

For many, the only hope is a determined organization that uses shoe-leather detective work, modern tools such as Facebook and plenty of pluck to solve the wartime disappearances. It succeeds more often than you would think.

Orellana's dream to see her daughter again rests with the group, called the Assn. for the Search for Missing Children and known as Pro-Busqueda. Over the years, it has located nearly half of the disappeared, with the largest number in El Salvador and the second-most in the United States. Adoptees have been tracked to Italy, Mexico, Germany and Belgium.
Pro-Busqueda was founded by Jesuit priest Jon Cortina of the University of Central America. Through the years, it has reunited hundreds.

The story of children separated from their families will also be the subject of an upcoming documentary. From the website of the Sundance Film Institute:
¿Dónde Están? is a documentary about the search for children who disappeared during the Salvadoran civil war. Many were survivors of massacres carried out by US-trained battalions of the Salvadoran army; they were taken from the scene by soldiers, to grow up in orphanages or be raised by strangers, not knowing their true history or identity.
Over the years, the Salvadoran government did virtually nothing to address the tragedy of missing children, an omission which led to a judgment against El Salvador from the Inter-American Court for Human Rights.

1 comment:

Tom said...

This is a good story to keep alive. It may be that some reader at some point will be able to make a link that will unite a family.

Also, for those who may be interested, there is a wonderful museum in honor of Father Jon Cortina in Guarjila.