My picture in a 1982 Honduran newspaper

The other week I wrote about the time I spent in the orphanage in Honduras. In that post I mentioned that a picture was taken of me that was made it into the newspaper. While we don’t have the orginal copy of the newspaper I was able to scan the two photo copies we have.

The funny thing about this picture is that you can tell right away its me. My mom points out even my hair looks the same.

Looking into the past

While I was writing my post about the orphanage I started to wondering if I could find the orphanage online anywhere.

Maybe someone working there would remember me and could tell me a little bit more about what I was like there. We know that I had to be fed first and that I really liked coke but not much else. Maybe they would have a funny story or something about me.

I did a quick google search and I found a news letter from 2003 from an orphanage with the same name but in a different location in Honduras. At the bottom was an email address of someone who I assumed worked there. I sent them an email asking if they did in fact work there or knew of anyone who was working there.

I got a response back earlier this week from a man who no longer worked there but was able to provide me with the email address of someone who does. I asked this person if they knew anyone who might have worked there during the same time period I was there. She said she did and was glad to help.

This morning I sent her an email that she could forward asking if anyone remembered me. I haven’t herd back yet but I’ll be interested to see if anyone responds.

The Orphanage – By Nelson Roberto

When the gunfire stops a women lays dead face down in the door way. Two men have been shot as well. They lie slumped over rifles by there side. As the police go through the house I’m found crying in my crib. Next to me are two other girls. Social services is called in to deal with us. As I’m being as taken away a news paper photographer stops us to take a picture. One police officer is holding me while the male officer next her tries to get me to smile. It works. My face lights up in a happy little smile completely unaware of what has just happened and what is to come.

I’m taken to a private orphanage in Tegucigalpa Honduras. This will be my home for the next year. I will spend most of my days in a my crib straiting out of the window on the third floor of this clay building. I won’t learn how to walk or speak very well. I won’t eat very well either. But I will be fed.

During this time a notice is put into the paper asking anyone who might be missing a child to come forward and claim me. No one does, so six months after I arrive I am legally put up for adoption. I will wait another six month before I meet my parents.

It’s May 1980 and I have just turned two. My adoptive parents arrived in the country a few weeks earlier. Today we will meet for the first time.

My soon to be dad wakes up early and staring making coffee. My soon to be mom lays in bed a few more minuets for before joining him. They are tired from a long night of nervous sleep.

“What do you think he will looks like?”
“We will know very soon.” My mother replies.

They shower and dress quick anticipating what is to come.

My dad paces nervously waiting for the social worker to arrive. “Why do you think they wouldn’t let any picture be taken of him? Do you think might be something wrong with him that they don’t want us to know about?”

“I don’t know hunny we will see soon enough.”

“Where are they? They should have been here by now.” my dad says anxiously

“They will come try to relax” my mom replies trying to hide her own anxiety.

“I’m going to call to make sure” My dad hurries off to make the call. He return shortly. “She’s not home.” He reports disappointedly

Then the door bell rings. Finally the social worker has come to take them to the orphanage.

As they arrive they are greeted by one of the staff members. Not wasting any time my dad asks. “What is he like?”

“Hes a sweet little boy but he will cry and cry if he is not fed first.” She answers shaking her head

“Oh?” my mom inquires.

“Don’t worry hes really nice” she replies quickly “but he doesn’t talk much. He only knows how to say agua. That means water and he says it when hes hungry or when he needs anything else.”

As they walk through the rooms filled with cribs, some of the children poke their heads up to see the visitors.

“I wonder if we could adopt more than one.” My dad wonders aloud.

“Here we are.” The staff member stops at the last crib on the third floor. “Oh and one more thing…” she says as a smile crosses her face “he really loves Coke.”

This is the moment my had parents been waiting for. As they approach the crib they see me lying down in a cloth diaper and an old t-shirt. I look up with a blank expression on my face not knowing what to expect.

My mom hands me a Paddington bear with a blue raincoat and red hat. I play with it curiously. Its the first stuffed animal I’ve ever had. They pick me up and hold me. I’m not sure what to make of this. They takes turns holding me and playing my with long curly brown hair. But now they must leave to finalize the adoption.

They put me back in the crib and say good bye. They will be back for me tomorrow once it is official. As they drive away I watch from my window, holding my Paddington close, wondering who are these people and if I’ll ever see them again.

Part 1: The adoption, a leap of faith and a miracle reunion. – Nelson/Roberto

I was adopted from an orphanage in Honduras in 1983. My adoptive parents had just started the adoption process and were probably about a year away from getting a child. Then one night they got a phone call around 9:00pm saying that there was a child available for them however there was no picture, no background information and they would have until 3:00pm the next day to decided. I don’t think this ever happens in adoption cases.

Thankfully, after a long night with not much sleep, they decided to adopt. They were living in the Boston area and had to rush to get everything ready before leaving for Honduras. It was the beginning of April and they had to be down in Central America by May. As they were getting ready to leave they found out that they would need FBI clearance in order to travel to Honduras. This normally takes 4 or 5 weeks and they only had one. To their surprise someone pulled some strings for them and Senator Kerry’s office was able to get them clearance in 2 days.

They flew down to Honduras where they were provided with a place to stay and a lawyer to help them with all the paper work. Again, this never happens. As the adoption went on the people involved where very hush hush and wouldn’t tell my parents anything. They mentioned something about a gunfight but wouldn’t say why I was up for adoption or why they were trying to get me out of the country so fast. My adoptive father speculated that I was illegitimate sun of the president or something like that. They did learn that our Mystery Politician was overseeing the adoption and this explained where all the political help was coming from.

They finished the adoption and took be back to the US with them. The judge who oversaw my case required that my father mail her updates every 6 months. My father diligently sent letters for almost 2 years. While talking to another parent about there experience he learned that these updates were not part of the normal adoption process and he promptly stopped. This seamed to the make the whole adoption that much weirder.

I grew up knowing that I was adopted (My parents are white and they always told me I was.) But they couldn’t tell me who my parents were or even when I was born. This was very hard for me growing up since it meant it would be next to impossible to find my birth family. My Adopted father had this newspaper article that someone had gotten for us. The article had a picture of a man who had been killed around the time that I went into the orphanage. As I was growing up he would look at the picture and try to see if there was any resemblance between us.

Then one day the impossible happened. My parents got another phone call at night in the summer of 97. A man called from an organization called Probusqueda that looked for lost children in El Salvador. It turned out I had been born there not Honduras and my birth family had been looking for me for 4 years. My parents told me soon after when I got home from summer camp. It was a huge shock for all of us.

The organization sent us pictures and letters from them written to the lost child Roberto(that’s me.) After a blood test to confirm that hey were indeed my family we started to make arrangements to fly down. In truth they really didn’t need to do the blood test. I look exactly like my birth father and a lot like my older brother.

That Christmas we flew down to meet them the for the first time. My adopted parent were nervous that I would want to stay with my birth family but that never really crossed my mind. Since then I have been down about twice a year to visit them and we have become one big family. Its been truly an amazing and I’m so lucky to have had such wonderful adoptive parents who supported me all these years and when I went to meet my birth family.

Part 2: My Origins, how I was separated from my family.