by Anonymous, adopted from Colombia to Australia
I was born in Cali, Colombia in 1993 during the midst period of civil war, disruption, political instability known as ‘la Violencia’. This period saw the degradation and exploitation of state civil services through corruption, war and systematic racism, which in turn resulted in tremendous damage to the lives, human rights and cultural heritage of millions of Colombians, Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Colombians whom who were displaced from their tradition lands an often subject to violence and systematic oppression. As a result of these circumstances and internal corruption within the adoption industry, I was separated from my biological mother and adopted to Australia at the age of one. I have a close but complex relationship my adoptive family.
Growing up, I loved to be outside and activate like most Aussie kids at the time and spent most of my time, fishing, kicking the footy around, and riding bikes around the neighbourhood with friends.
While I was always social and enjoyed making friends, I also struggled with bullying, racism, and the spectre of isolation/identity crisis/lack of racial mirrors that many of us adoptees experience. I fondly remember finding refuge and solace in books, stories, myths, and legends, everything ranging from magical fantasies like Harry Potter and the Homer’s Iliad to biographies and the encyclopedia on the Fall of Rome.
I distinctly recall being in grade 1 and recall reading Harry Potter and afterward, daydreaming about an imaginary time when my biological family would appear in a fireplace one day, tell me I was a wizard and take me off to enrol at Hogwarts with the other Wizards.
As a child, although I recall some intense moments of isolation and loneliness, I also had a close relationship with my younger brother, immediate and extended family who always made me feel welcome and as part of the family. It is only as I entered by teenage and adult years that these relationships began to shift and change, not as a result of any ill intent but largely due to the development of my own awareness about my place in the world (or lack thereof) as a black Afro-Colombian/Afro-Australian and subsequent experiences with racism and micro-aggressions.
This tumultuous but unique start to life, in conjunction, with the lived experience of navigating the word though the lens of an Afro-Colombian/Afro-Australia male, has aided in the development of a nuanced but balanced understanding of cultural, adoption and racial politics of today’s multicultural Australia.
This lived experience, is further supplemented by an academic background in law, investigations, government, politics and international relations, the pursuit of which in retrospect and with the aid of therapy, was both my innate curiosity to learn more about the world, a desire to effect change, and my inner child seeking validation and identity through achievements.
It was during this period, that I spent a year studying and playing college basketball at Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom. Not whole lot of studying was done and the academic transcript upon return was not great but I can honestly say this was one of the best years of my life. I say this, as it was the first time in my life where I was not the only person of colour but also the first time in 21 years that I was around racial mirrors and a large Afro British/West African community. I think, in only my second week, I joined both the African and Latin American societies and immediately felt welcomed and at home.
Fast forward to 2022 and that sample feeling of what it was like to belong, in conjunction with the covid pandemic and the BLM movement, I was motivated to start to take some concrete steps to look into my own background and search for my biological family in Colombia. I really started to ‘come out of the adoptee fog’ as we tend to call it.
I joined a number of extremely welcoming and supportive online adoptee support and re-unification groups and through one of these groups, I was fortunate to connect with an extremely kind and amazing Colombian adoptee who explained further the history of illicit adoptions in Colombia and how and what documents I would need to start my search.
I diligently followed the advice provided and unearthed the limited documents I had (a birth certificate, a few medical records, abandonment certificate and adoption paperwork) and wrote a short blurb about myself with some baby and current photos. I then posted to range of reunification groups both here and in Colombia.
I was sceptical that anything would come of it especially knowing the current social and political climate of Colombia both now and at the time of my birth. I had grieved and accepted that I would most likely never find my biological family or that that they would be deceased.
Despite those initial reservations, approximately 24 hours after I had posted the search, I woke up to hundreds of messages on Facebook from people all around Colombia (nurses, doctors, private investigators and ordinary people ) offering to help or sending pictures of profiles of people who fit the description based on the information I had provided.
One of the groups who reached out was Plan Angel (an adoptee led organisation that specialise in biological reunification in Colombia). They sent through Facebook the profile of a lady with the same name as the woman listed on my birth certificate. Funnily enough, this happened to be a profile I had come across in my own searches but had discounted it as the date of birth did not match my birth certificate.
Plan Angel explained they had been contacted ‘by a lady, who knew a lady, who use to baby sit children that looked like you’ and asked whether I ‘would like them to make further enquires to confirm’. With my heart in chest, I replied, ‘Of course!’ 8 or so hours later, Plan Angel called at 7am in the morning saying, ‘We have confirmed that it is your biological mother, would you like to arrange a time to speak to her’. I calmly replied yes, expecting that this meeting would occur in few days, weeks or months but to my great surprise, the lady pressed a button and in a little box at the top of my cracked iphone and for the first time in 30 years, I saw the face of my mother, this illusive woman whose face and personality I had imagined since as long I could remembered; a woman and a queen who had generously carried me around for 9 months and made me 50% of who I am. I think in that moment, even if it was for a split second, I felt at peace and knew what it was to truly have a point of reference for identity and place in this world.
As soon as we saw each other, we burst out in tears because we knew. Looking back, I can honestly say this was a call that changed my life, as I went from not knowing my place in the world, feeling culturally isolated and from a close loving but small two sibling family, to 25 minutes later being the 3rd oldest in a crazy Afro-Colombian family of 13 and finally understanding and having a sense of culturally finding home and place! Here, I was not only accepted for who I was, but I was celebrated.
Since that day, life and process of navigating the reunion process has been one wild, humbling, joyous, sad, grief filled, soothing yet erratic adventure that has really felt like the screenplay to a classic Latin telenovela. It has an unpredictable mix of horror, happiness, scandal, secrecy, crime, horror, drama, pain, love and family all mixed together.
A big part of what made this journey possible and survivable, has been the ongoing support, guidance, mentoring, exchange of shared experiences, friendship, healing education and community offered/provided by Lynelle and other adoptees through ICAV, Plan Angel as well as the wider adoptee community. It is my hope, that by sharing my tale, I am able to pay it forward, raise awareness around the realities of adoption (the need for improved support services), hopefully provide guidance and a relatable perspective to other intercountry adoptees both in general and for those who are thinking about reunification.
Click here to RSVP to ICAVs upcoming webinar on Reunion and Beyond: