I was born on March 7th, 1987. The following day, the 8th of March, my biological mother left me at an orphanage. She was twenty three years old when I was born. The events surrounding my birth have always been a mystery. I’ve never been able to hop in on conversations about my weight as a newborn or the exact time of birth. These tidbits of information are intimate parts of my personal story that, for the moment, remain a mystery. My “hajj” or return to my land of birth came full circle with the recent visit of my parents.
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In November 1987, I was adopted and left Bogotá headed for Beverly, Massachusetts. In the airport, my parents were stopped and questioned about the powdered milk that they had bought for me. The cocaine production in Medellin and Cali in the 1980’s - 90’s and the subsequent exportation to North American markets made my parents’ adoption story probably seem like the perfect ploy to smuggle narcotics out of the country. The era of drug cartels and violence is a dark part of contemporary Colombian history. It’s a period of time that has unfortunately left an international image that paints Colombia to be a land laden of drugs and violence. The fact that my parents were willing to adopt from Colombia, especially in the late 80’s, has always spoken volumes about their admiration towards the country of my birth. My father has often expressed that he and my mother had very mixed emotions while leaving Bogotá with me in 1987. They were so happy to be parents but were bothered by the fact that some people felt that they were stealing from Colombia. Flying back to the United States in late November of 1987, I barely filled up a Delta airlines chair. These moments, unlike my birth, were greatly documented with photos. Looking at these photos now, I wonder what that eight month old baby would have said if he could talk. This is the same eight month year old baby who would grow up to write a blog in a language different from the one he would’ve first heard after coming into this world. The same infant who would return to his country of birth twenty four years later to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. On the 31st of December 2012, for the first time in almost 25 years, I found myself once again in Colombia with my parents.
My parents were here for about a week. We spent the time between Cartagena and Barranquilla. At the midpoint of their stay, we were joined by my sister and her boyfriend. Diana was also adopted from Colombia. I'm sure that her arrival to Cartagena was filled with nostalgia for a land she’s never quite known. Seeing familiar faces mix into what has become my Barranquilla life was a beautiful experience. My home will always be in Beverly, Massachusetts; however, since leaving for College, my idea of home has become less defined by an area code or physical structure. Home, as they would say, is where the heart is and my heart will always be with my family. Visits from family and friends while at College in Memphis TN and in Guatemala with the Peace Corps were important and defining moments of both of those chapters of my life. My family’s visit to Colombia was no different. In a song entitled Roses, Kanye West likens his family members to being metaphorical roses for his ailing grandmother.
Cause with my family we know where home is
So instead of sending flowers
We the roses
While there was no sick abuelita, time with my roses or family was like being home. It was a refreshing reminder that no matter where I am, I’ll always have the best people on earth in my corner.
One of my top five movies of all time is A Bronx Tale. It’s a Robert De Niro directed film about an adolescent’s struggles with coming to age in the Bronx in the 1960’s. In the movie, De Niro warns his son, who is often caught up with the wrong crowd, that the "saddest thing in the world is wasted talent". Ironically De Niro’s son, the protagonist of the movie, is played by Lillo Brancato who is also an adopted Colombian from Bogotá. Since the day I was born the idea that "the saddest thing in the world is wasted talent" has been like an omnipresent mantra. I’ve always wondered what my life would’ve been like had my mother not given me up for adoption? Would I have become wasted talent? I’ll always love my biological mother for giving me up for adoption. Her strength to do so gave me another opportunity to live life. An opportunity that lead me into the loving arms of my parents. Arms that would give hugs which will continue to show an unconditional love that few are lucky to have in this world.
This entry is dedicated to the most loving parents anyone could have ever hoped for. Today, the 23rd of January, is their wedding anniversary. Their unwavering support and guidance throughout my life has made me into who I am today. Returning to November 1987, I want my parents to know that they did not take me from Colombia. They gave me a life that I would’ve most likely never have had. As they left the city in 1987 with me in their arms, the people were not angry with them for “taking” me from my country of birth. They were angry with themselves. Angry because they were from a country whose own system left mothers to abandon their children due to financial struggles. They were angry because they were loosing their greatest natural resource; la gente.
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Mom and Dad,
Your love for my sister and I has changed our lives forever for the better. While you didn’t bring us into this world, you gave us life. I am left, like the drummer boy, with only words. I hope that your anniversary is wonderful and not too cold. I’m sending you warm vibes from Barranquilla.