10 Years Since We First Met

It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since we first met. Sometimes people say “it feels like just yesterday.” For me it feels like a lifetime. It seems like so long ago that I walked out of the airport into the arms of my father and sister. I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. I have so many good memories since then that I can hardly believe it was only ten years ago.

People sometimes ask “where do you see yourself in ten years?” Well I can tell you that 10 years ago I would have never guessed this. I would have never guessed I would be sitting in Panama in front of the Christmas tree. I never would have guessed I would be working with my dad and cousin. I never would have guessed I would have such wonderful brothers and sisters to spend the holidays with. I never would have guessed that my mother would be writing about my story, or that people would want to hear me talk about it.

I’m trying to come up with something else meaningful to say about everything that happened and I can’t. I really wanted to write something about how incredible these past years have been and how they have affected my life. I also wanted to talk about what a great family I have, both here and in America. Maybe it’s just too hard to sum up 10 years of memories in a couple paragraphs. I’m at a loss for words. Perhaps I shouldn’t even try and just instead enjoy being here with my family.

All I can say for sure is that I am so lucky to have found these incredible people and to be a part of their lives. I know they feel the same way. I love all of you and you all mean so much to me. Happy 10 years.

Off to Central America

I’ve been running around all day getting ready for my trip to Costa Rica and Panama. I leave tomorrow morning bright and early. This is going to be a business trip of sorts.

I’m working on a project with my family in Panama. My father Luis has an embroidery business that he has been running in Panama for almost 20 years now. (After he left the revolution in the mid 80s he moved to Panama to rebuild his life. I may add a post about this part of the story.)

I’m working to help them create an order tracking system. I would like this to be a pilot for a bigger project of creating an open-sourced business resource for Central America. I’ll probably put a post up about that when I have a better idea what it is going to be all about.

In the mean time I am planning to do some more video interviews with various family members. Keep an eye out for those sometime next week!

Memories – by Nelson/Roberto

I’m running as fast as I can. I stop short at the gate fence. In a few quick moves, I jump up, grab the top, swing my legs over and jump down on the other side. I keep running only to be greeted buy the dog. Before he can get near me I duck into the door way to my left. Jumping over some paint cans I turn sharply to the right and hid behind some boxes. I’m out of breath but I try not to make a sound.

I stay here for a minuet. I don’t hear anything. Slowly I creep back into the hall way and look around. Poking my head into the next room Ernesto looks up at me and laughs.

“What are you doing?”

“Shhh..she’ll hear me” As soon as I say it I hear screaming coming from the next room.

I turn to run again but the stupid dog followed me into the room and is in my way. Great no where to go. I turn, knowing whats coming next.

“I GOT YOU!!” My little sister screams as she grabs my shirt. I try to loosen her grip and tell her she is stretching the shirt. No good. Shes got me and she is NOT letting go.

Giving I pick her up in my arms and we head back to the house to get something to drink.

I often think back to those days when she was a little kid and we would run around the house chasing each other. It was so much fun. I have so many memories.

There is a gate outside of my father’s house in panama. The entrance had a nice little ledge just big enough for someone to sit. I use to picker up on my shoulder and put her on the ledge when she was being “bad.” She would laugh trying to figure out how to get down.

Then there was the time I broke her bed. I picked up and pretending to be a wrestler dropped her on the bed. It completely fell apart. She was fine but started to cry when she saw her bed in pieces. We were able to fix it right up and minuets later she was grabbing on to my shirt again like nothing every happened.

I’m so glad that I have been able to be a part of her growing up. She is a lot older now and has become a wonderful young lady. I still remember the little girl who ran up to me that first night at the airport. She will always be my little sister.

Meeting my sister and growing up with her has been one of the best parts of this entire experience. I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

I know how much she looks up to me and that is where I get so much of my motivation. Her pictures hangs on my wall and I always look it when I am feeling down.

Many families are spread all over the world and don’t get to see each other as much as they would like. Thats not an option for me. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we’ll always have memories to look back on.

Phone Call – By Nelson/Roberto

May 1982

Shortly after Eva saw our mother for the last time, my mother urged my grandmother to take the children and move to Costa Rica where they would be safer. In 1980, Mama Chila packed up the family to live with my aunt Vilma who had been in Costa Rica since 1978. Mama Chila brought with her Vilma’s two children Evelyn and Jacqueline. As well as Ana’s two children Eva and Ernesto. I had not been born yet and our father Luis was in Cuba recovering from the bullet wound.

Earlier that year, Vilma had married a man named Eduardo who was the son of her employer. It was not the best arrangement since Eduardo did not treat Vilma well and occasionally threatened to deport her is she ever left him. Mama Chila and Vilma both worked during the day to provide for the children. Eduardo who was not as ambitious and stayed around the house most of the day.

They didn’t hear much from Luis or Ana. Because of the war it was very hard to send messages. Ana wrote occasionally and the messages where usually delved in person by someone who was involved with the revolution. It had been a few months since Ana had last written. Then one day something weird happened. They received a phone call. Ana never called because it was much to dangerous. Mama Chila and Vilma were both out but Eduardo took the call.

Eduardo sits at home watching TV. Its about 3:30 in the afternoon. My aunt Vilma and grandmother Mama Chila have not come home from work yet. Eduardo lazily flips through the channels waiting for the two of them to come so he can eat. Just then the phone rings. He glances over at it wondering if he should bother picking it up. Reluctantly he stands and wonders over to the phone.


“Hello…is this Eduardo?” an agitated voice replies on the other side.

A little surprised by tone of her voice he replies “Yes…who is this?”

“Its Vilma’s sister Mila” She says nervously

“Mila! How are you? We haven’t herd from you in so lo…”

Ana interrupts him “Eduardo I’m sorry but I don’t have much time. Is my mother there its really important.”

Slightly annoyed by being cut off he replies “No they haven’t returned home from work yet but they should be home soon. You should call back later.”

“No there is no time can you give her a message” She is even more nervous now as someone is yelling in the background.

“Yes of course, whats wrong?” Eduardo questions.

“They found us I don’t know how.” she sounds scared now “I have to go. Tell mama chila I love her and…” she pauses slightly “tell her to take care of my kids…”

The phone clicks and Eduardo not knowing what to make of this stands for a second listening to the dial tone. He hangs up the phone, puzzled by what just happened and sits back down to watch TV.

Sometimes I wonder what it must have taken to make that phone call. She must have known when she made the call she would never see her children again. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like.

That would be the last thing we ever herd from Ana. We never knew what happened to her after that and most likely we never will.

A letter from my father – by Nelson/Roberto

November 1997

Its 6:15 pm and its already dark out. I just got back from school and I’m the first one home. I dash up to my room and drop my bag. I fire up the computer and head back downstairs to get something to drink. As I go to the turn on the outside lights I bend over and pick up the mail. On my way back to the kitchen I start to go through it. Bill, bill, junk mail…but whats this?

Tossing the rest of the mail on the counter I’m starring down at a letter addressed to Roberto Coto form a Luis Coto. Its a letter from my father… When we got the original package from Probusqueda there was only letters from my aunt and grandmother. I take a second to look at it before opening it. Its three pages of neatly written cursive. I frown for a second. It all in Spanish and I can’t read any of it.

I head back up to my room letter in hand. Half an hour later my dad yells from downstairs “I’m home”

“Hi” I reply making my way out into the hall.

“How was your day?” he questions

“I got a letter from my dad.” I say excitedly

My adoptive father would tell me later these words made his heart sink because for 15 years he was the only one I called dad. There is a pause…”What does it say?”

“I’m not sure its all in Spanish”

Over dinner I show my parents the letter. My mom suggests that she could have one of her colleagues translate the letter for us. I tell her that I think some of my friend at school could translate it too.

The next day I stuff the letter in my bag as I head out the door. As I’m ride in on the T I stare at it I try to figure out what it says. All I can make out is “Dear Roberto,” So I just sit there staring out the window. I always sit in the the very first seat on the train. It has a window all to its self and I can get off the train quicker. I’ve made this 15 minuet trip for the past four years but today it seams endless. My leg is shaking in anticipation and everyone getting on the train is taking forever. Finally I arrive at my stop just in time to catch the last van.

I’m running late. Its 8:20am when I arrive and there is no time to find someone to translate. I’ll have to wait until lunch. I’m restless during my classes I pull out the letter every so often to look it over. I briefly show it to my friend Eric. Finally its time for lunch.

“Julia!” I call down the hall

She greats me with a smile, “Hey there”

“I got a letter from my father in Panama” I say pull the letter out of my bad

“Oh wow that’s so cool, what does it say?”

“I’m not sure. I can’t read it and I need to find someone who can translate it.”

“Maria might be able help you. She speaks some Spanish.”

“Really? Hmm I’ll have to ask her”

“She’s over there, Hey I got to run I’ll catch up with you later” She turns and walks off.

“yup, thanks I’ll see you later”

As she’s walking away she calls down the hall “Hey when are we gonna playing soccer?”

I smile “Anytime just let me know” I turn and head towards the lounge where Maria is sitting.

“Hey Maria are you busy?”

Maria look up “Not right now. Why whats up?”

“I got this letter from my dad and I have no idea what it says you think you could help me with it?”

“This is your father in Central America?” she ask examining the letter.


“Yea sure let me look at it”

Finally I’ll be able to find out what in the letter. Its loud in the foyer so we make are way in to the stair case and sit down on the steps going down to athletic office.

She sits and looks at it for a sec. She starts to read it to me but explains that its very hard with the writing and that he using some words she doesn’t know. As she tries to read it I realize that I’m not actually listening to what she is saying. I don’t think its the letter that I’m excited about. I can’t wait to see meet these people and see what they are like. For that I will have to wait, it will be another month before I get to meet them.

Being Adopted – By Nelson/Roberto

I think adoption is one of the most wonderful and at the same time one of the most difficult things I have experienced in my life. The joy of adoption can best be described by the quote that begins this blog.

Losing ones family obliges us to find ones family. Not always the family that is our blood but the family that can become our blood.

However, no matter how great my adoptive parents have been, growing up as an adopted child was not always easy. The most difficult emotion I have ever had to deal with was the uncertainty that came from being adopted. I imagine that most if not all adopted persons go through a similar experience sometime during their life.

Perhaps in my case these feelings might have been harder to deal with. For my parents did not even know birthday never mind how I came to be adopted. Today I could not imagine my life without my adopted family but back then having them was not enough.

There is just something about your birth-mother/birth-father that you can never forget or completely let go of. You want to know what they look like, if you look like them and what kind of people are they. But most importantly you want to know: Why was I given up?

To this question there is no easy answer. It is something that I struggled with and watched my friends struggle with. Some were more vocal than others but you just knew even the quiet ones were thinking about it too. You wonder how can the people who gave you life simply give you away? Well I’m sure it’s never that easy and I’m sure they never forget either.

I used to sit at night staring out of my window wishing I could just see my my mother. I thought if I could just see her, she would make everything better. These feelings never went away, no matter how hard I tried to fight or ignore them. But that all changed when I met my birth family.

Being reunited with them was incredible to say the least. I went from not knowing my birthday to having three new siblings and a huge family that had been looking for me all along. It seamed to answer all my questions about who I was and if I looked like my parents (I’m practically a carbon copy of my father.)

However I feel like I am very lucky in this respect. I have herd a few stories of people who went looking for their birth parents only to find they had nothing in common and could not relate to each other. I wish I could say “Don’t worry one day you will find your birth parent too and everything will be alright” but I know that’s not always the case. Not every adoption story has such a happy ending.

In the end I wonder how much finding your birth parents really matters. Yes finding them did answer a lot of my questions and it did take away the awful feeling of uncertainty but I don’t think that’s what mattered most. I think what mattered the most was the family that we have became.

I hardly think of it as my adopted family and my birth family anymore. When people say “oh you found your real parents” I say no I found my birth parents. I don’t even like to make the distinction between them. I just like to think I have two sets of parents and one BIG family.

Family is more than just being related because sometimes even our own blood doesn’t treat us as they should. Family is about caring for people and loving them unconditionally. Family is what we found in them and what they found in us.

Not always the family that is is our blood but the family that can become our blood…