Chile’s stolen children: American woman finds her Chilean mother 36 years after birth

(CNN) Growing up in Minneapolis, Alisa Clare Cohen constantly wondered whether her birth parents in Chile really abandoned her. Nearly four decades passed before she learned the truth.

“The story that I was told was that my (biological) family had essentially never meant to keep me,” Cohen said.

Her now-deceased adopted parents, Sheila and Steve Cohen, were always forthcoming about Cohen’s adoption and the country she came from. And yet she wondered.

Was she really abandoned by her birth parents as she had been told, or was she an orphan as her Chilean passport and her adoption documents stated? There were many inconsistencies and she knew there was only one way to find out.

She was about to celebrate her 36th birthday when she finally decided to dig into her past.

Their names had always been in Cohen’s adoption documents. Silvia Beatriz Córdova was listed as her biological mother and Jorge Riquelme Díaz as her father.

In February, she contacted the Chile Adoption Birth Family Search, an online group dedicated to connecting adopted children raised in the United States with their biological parents in Chile.

The group gave her a contact number with the “Carabineros,” the Chilean national police. In a matter of weeks, she got the answer she was hoping for: her biological parents were still alive and very eager to meet her.

On July 19, she embarked on a 28-hour journey that would take her from Minneapolis to Santiago, the capital of Chile. After clearing customs and immigration at the airport, she headed to the waiting area where not only her biological parents, but a half-sister and others in her new-found extended family were waiting for her.

“Welcome to Chile, Alisa,” read the hand-written posters that led her to the group and to Silvia Beatriz Córdova, the woman who carried her in her womb for nine months. There were no words, only tears of joy.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life to find my mother,” Cohen said, overcome with emotion.

‘I never saw her again’

She says during those decades there were entire criminal organizations stealing babies from impoverished families to profit from their sale, while the Pinochet government looked the other way or simply ignored victims.

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