Alisa Clare Cohen always been told by her adoptive parents, Sheila and Steve Cohen, that she had been abandoned at birth. They spoke about her adoption openly. Cohen’s adoption paperwork and Chilean passport, however, had her listed as an orphan. Nearly 40 years after her adoption, she finally learned the truth about her past.
Around her 36th birthday, Cohen decided to investigate the inconsistencies in her adoption story. She reached out with the names of her biological parents to the Chile Adoption Birth Family Search, an online group that helps adoptees born in Chile find their birth parents. The group put her in contact with the Chilean national police. They confirmed that her birth parents, Silvia Beatriz Córdova and Jorge Riquelme Díaz, were alive.
On July 19th Cohen traveled the 28 hours from Minneapolis to Santiago, Chile. Her birth parents and half sister were at the airport when she arrived. “I’ve been waiting my whole life to find my mother,” Alisa Clare Cohen told CNN as she hugged her mother on Saturday. Cordova explained that she had been excited to be a mother, and she never wanted for her to be adopted.
Cordova suffered complications from surgery after Cohen’s birth. She had to stay in the hospital for an additional three or four months. Córdova and Díaz only saw their baby right after delivery. Then she was taken by a nurse and never returned. Their questions about the whereabouts of their daughter went unanswered. In 1982, Chile was ruled by a military dictator, Augusto Pinochet. The family was afraid to push too hard for answers.
Cohen’s adoption was not the only case of its kind. She was one of the many babies taken from their parents and placed for adoption without knowledge or consent. They have come to be known as the “Children of Silence.” In 2015 a special prosecutor was assigned to investigate the illegal adoptions. There are said to be more than 600 children involved.