A rediscovered past, a history unveiled


Santiago (Chile)

From our special correspondent

“Exactly forty years ago, I was ‘adopted’ in this place, the Carolina-Freire maternity hospital. I’m looking for my story. » Victim of an earthquake in 1985, the building had been abandoned for a long time. The neighborhood had changed, as had the country. But nothing and no one would have made Constanza del Rio give up her quest. An e-mail address followed, an open door, she hoped, to this obscure past. Some time earlier, on February 12, 2012, Constanza had finally learned from her parents what everyone around her knew – biologically speaking, she was not their daughter. Finding the clinic where Cecilia and Jorge had rushed past, after a brief phone call telling them that a baby was waiting for them, was a first feat. Others will follow, during a relentless and heartbreaking investigation which will lead her, three years later, to her biological parents: a mother who will reject her coldly; a father who has been waiting for him for four decades and will offer him a second family.

But that little cardstock poster nailed to the door of a ruined building wasn’t just the key to Constanza’s buried past. In the 1970s, adoption was very limited in Chile, and largely taboo. However, as she recounts in the book published in Chile which retraces her impressive journey, “when something is difficult to obtain legally, we resort to illegality”. We know people, or we recommend them to you, by whispering. Like this renowned gynecologist – and also a deputy – close to a friend of Jorge and Cecilia.

This clandestine way left no trace, provided no explanation for the new parents. The documents were false, but in order. “It is estimated that 50,000 children were given up for adoption illegally, from the 1970s to the 1990s», explains Constanza, who gave up her career in marketing to devote herself to the quest for her past, and that of tens of thousands of Chileans separated at first cry.

Because the letters abounded in Constanza’s mailbox following her call nailed to an old door like a bottle thrown into the sea. In an attempt to put in contact biological parents wishing to find the children, many of whom did not know ‘on the appearance of the first press articles and public interventions of Constanza, that they had survived the birth, she launched an Internet page. A page which, given the magnitude of the task, quickly became a foundation, Nos Buscamos.

In ten years, Constanza has crossed paths even more overwhelming than her own. She witnessed more poignant embraces. Terrible stories, which the Latin America of the military knew how to concoct: “We know the children stolen from Argentina and the Grandmothersof May Square in Buenos Aires, but in Chile, it is still different: it was not a question of babies of militants who were taken from their families to be entrusted to relatives of the military, but purely business money. »There were two types of situations, she continues. Cases like mine, where a young girl from a good family got pregnant without being married. His parents then contrived to hide the affair, and the child was given up for adoption, illegally. » Constanza’s mother was hidden in a convent, and her baby entrusted to the good care of the famous doctor, now deceased. “There were also the cases of poor families, generally Indian, Mapuche. Mothers were told that their child was stillborn, a mass could even be celebrated, and the baby was adopted, usually abroad in this case. »

Many of these Chileans grew up far from the Andes, in Europe. Sweden, a few months ago, announced the opening of an investigation. In Chile, too, investigations are being carried out. “I have communicated a lot of information to the justice system in 900 cases, but nothing is moving”, laments the forties, shaking her head. Justice tramples, tempers. But Constanza continues to move forward.

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