Missing Mila, Finding Family
An International Adoption in the Shadow of the Salvadoran Civil War
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Texas Press
For this twenty-eight-year journey, I cannot possibly name all the individuals who have accompanied me. I have tried in the text and notes to acknowledge the information derived from a conversation or interview, to name the person who gave me a photograph or an article, who translated a letter or wrote an entry in a family ...
Prologue: Dalila's Hammock. San Salvador, El Salvador, February 2005
Lying in the hammock in a shady corner of Dalila's patio, I can look up through colorful towels hanging on the line and a flowering poinsettia tree to the hulking gray-green presence of the volcano, seemingly serene in the rectangle of azure above. Three days ago I arrived from Costa Rica, after spending several weeks in an intensive course trying to hasten my acquisition of spoken Spanish. ...
Part One: Our Story
One. Adoption. Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May-June 1983
Memorial Day, a day to remember indeed! I wake up quite early--very excited, a little nervous. This will be the day we meet our little one--what will he look like? Thus begins my entry for Monday, May 30, 1983, in the little notebook that served as my journal for the month. I had brought it with me to Tegucigalpa--this city whose name we were just learning to get our tongues around--along ...
Two. Rediscovery. Massachusetts, August-December 1997
When the next part of this story unfolded for us in the summer of 1997, fourteen years had passed since our adoption, and Nelson was a teenager, looking forward to learning to drive like most near-sixteen-year-olds. Tom and I have experienced most of the highs and lows in our lives with Nelson together, but the next turning point happened on a Sunday night when Tom was home ...
Three. Reunion. Heredia, Costa Rica, December 1997
Despite the outpouring of goodwill expressed in the letters that had flooded our mailbox through the fall, I was anticipating that we would face a considerable language barrier when we actually met in December. We gathered that several members of Nelson's biological family knew some English, and both our boys were taking Spanish in school, but they were far from fluent. I planned ...
Part Two: Their Stories
Four. Putting the Pieces Together, 1952-1992
We have invited Mamá Chila; Nelson's siblings Eva, Toto, and Éstefany; and his niece, Daniela, to come from Central America to join us for a week of celebration surrounding Nelson's graduation from Wentworth Institute of Technology. Their visit to Boston comes at an opportune time. Since my return from Central America in February, I've managed to draft the first three chapters of ...
Five. Imagining Mila. New Hampshire, Summer 2007
Since I drafted Chapter 4, Tom has retired, and we have moved to our home in New Hampshire. Derek graduated from Macalester College in May and is working in North Carolina as an endangered species intern, and last August Nelson left a job in the IT department of a local bank in order to start his own business. His degree is in management of technology, and he now designs administrative ...
Six. The Disappeared Children of El Salvador
By the time Derek wrote this poem for an assignment in his Spanish class in tenth grade, he understood that no matter how important his brother was to us, and no matter how riveting Nelson's birth family's narrative, our story and theirs provide only a few threads in a much broader and bloodier fabric. From our contact with Pro-búsqueda and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), and on the ...
Epilogue. One Story
Around the time we first read the articles about Suzanne Berghaus Norton in 2007, we were thinking a great deal about the fact that on May 19th it had been exactly twenty-five years since Ana Milagro's death at the hands of the Cobra battalion of the Honduran police force and the disappearance of one-year old Roberto from his birth family. Just a little over a year later, as I write ...
Appendix I. Abbreviations and Acronyms
Appendix II. Family Names
References and Suggested Reading