Born in 1986 in Guatemala during the civil war, Mariela was legally adopted by a Belgian family who named her Coline. Later, Coline will discover that she was kidnapped at birth.
On this Wednesday, November 3, 2021, Coline watches Eva, 9, and Hugo, 4 and a half, play laughing with Pascal, their father and her husband, overwhelmed by emotion. His book, Mom, I’m not dead (Kennes Editions) in bookstores and soon adapted for television, tells her incredible story that she wants to pass on to her children. Born in 1986 in Guatemala, Mariela was adopted at the age of 11 months by a couple from the Ardennes. He names her Colin. His childhood and adolescence passed off peacefully within this loving family.
“I always knew that I was adopted. Officially, my biological mother had abandoned me, because she was too poor. My parents had scrupulously followed the legal route with an approved Belgian association, Hacer Puente. I received a lot of love, I lived all that very quietly”, she explains. When she comes of age, Coline moves to the outskirts of Brussels where she works as a civil servant, gets married and becomes the mother of two children.
“Hello honey, I think I’m your mom, they told me you were dead”
In 2017, his daughter questions him about his origins. Coline then decides to dig into her past. On the Internet, she reads articles about child thefts in Guatemala and wonders about her own story. “At first, I didn’t feel concerned. But I found names that were also registered in my adoption file, which turned out to be full of inconsistencies.” With her meager record and the help of the singer and French actress of Guatemalan origin Carmen Maria Vega and French-Honduran investigative journalist Sebastián Escalón, she begins, via Facebook, research on her mother.
“I come across a profile and, immediately, I’m sure. 200% sure. I see her, it stings my stomach, it burns, I know it’s her…”, says Coline, who once again sends a message expressing, “with delicacy”, his conviction. That of having found his biological mother! The answer is heartbreaking: “Hello my darling, hello my love, I believe that I am your mom, they told me that you were dead.” At 31, Coline learns, amazed, that she has in fact never been abandoned.
When the orphans ran out, networks resorted to kidnappings
“When I was born, my mother was told that I was being placed in neonatology for my health but, in fact, I was kidnapped. My mother was made to believe that I was dead. Kidnapped for eleven months, I was then sold under cover of international adoption.” For weeks, Coline spoke with this reunited family. In January 2018, with the support of her parents, “devastated by what they had just learned”, Coline flew to Guatemala. “The reunion at the airport were as beautiful as they were painful. Hugs, tears, laughter, we were all in shock“, she remembers still moved.
His story is not an isolated case. In Guatemala, until 2008, “there were no controls, the responsibility for the procedures was left to lawyers and notaries”, explains the young woman who is now 34 years old. Adoptions, to countries like France or Belgium, were negotiated at several tens of thousands of euros. So, when the orphans ran out, some sectors resorted to kidnappings. A sprawling business whose profits fed the local mafia to corrupt senior state officials.
“We want Europe to recognize these facts. So that it does not happen again”
Today, Mariela/Coline is at peace with her past and lives her present as “the happy daughter of four incredible parents”. In 2017, she created the Racines Perdues foundation, which supports Guatemalan victims of illegal adoptions, searches for their families and defends their cause. “We want Europe to recognize these facts. So that it does not happen again and to defend the victims, some of whom are still minors,” she concludes.