Appropriate children during the Salvadoran war: the story of a reunion 31 years later


Pro-Busca is a Salvadoran civil association that has reported 1,005 cases of missing children in El Salvador during the armed conflict in that country, between 1980 and 1992. Seven of them are wanted in Mexico and at the end of November they managed to gather a mother with her children after 31 years of absence.

This was possible thanks to the alliance established between Pro-Busca (founded in 1994) and the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, the main organization linked to the many facets of migration. Thus, Lilian Alvarado, a woman who had been persecuted for the Salvadoran repression during the conflict, was able to reunite with her two children in Marin (Nuevo Leon) in northern Mexico, this November 24, as part of the actions of the XV Caravan of Central American mothers.

"In the armed conflict there were children who were disappeared either because they were captured from their homes in operations, after the massacres perpetrated; other children were given up for adoption irregularly, even to military families; and others, as in the case of the Mrs. Lilian, because they had to migrate due to the violence in the country, "Elizabeth Portillo, a member of Pro-Search of El Salvador, told Sputnik, who went to Mexico as a representative of the organization in the XV Caravan of Central American mothers.

"There is impunity in these cases of missing children, because they were not even reported in the report of the truth that was made after the peace accords, in 1993. The Salvadoran State has a historical debt to them, because social organizations have been the that have come together to do the search, "Portillo explained.

The meeting, 31 years later

"In principle, it was thanks to social networks," Portillo responds to the question of how it was possible for this meeting of Lilian Alvarado with his children. "The lady created a Facebook to look for her children, but they were also looking for her. They were added, then Pro-Search made a DNA to verify that they are indeed their children," said the organization's representative.

For Portillo, this reunion is quite symbolic because of the human sense of the organization, but also because they are his family: "The person who presented the case is my aunt, but I did not know about my missing cousins. It was 31 years that she suffered many times without commenting on her situation, but the pain was visible in her. "
"I knew my aunt had children, but I didn't know why they weren't with her. She had never told herself openly what had happened to them," he explained.
When her children were 9 and 7 years old, Lilian Alvarado participated in a Collective of Salvadoran mothers who were also looking for their missing children during the armed conflict. The organization, Portillo said, was called Comadres and had been founded by Monsignor Romero, the murdered priest who was a central figure for the Salvadoran social movement during those years of state repression.

"The detail is that as she was involved in that group, they began to threaten her, had persecution and was arrested for a while. For that kind of violence she was suffering, she had to protect her children, so they decide that children have to migrate with her dad. They communicated through telephone booths, but then the children's father stopped communicating with her and thus lost contact, "Portillo said, about the origin of this family's distance.

Portillo acknowledges that it was a very emotional reunion despite the gap that means 31 years of having been distanced. "It was that hug expected and postponed by the situation of violence in El Salvador. We all cried, it was a unique moment," he said.

An ignored crisis

Since it was founded in 1994, Pro-Search has received 1,005 complaints of cases of missing children between 1980 and 1993. "Hopefully through the dissemination that has been made of this reunion we can find more cases," said Portillo, of which seven, counting the children of Lilian Alvarado, are sought in Mexican territory.

"We do not rule out that in some of these cases there may be a pattern of trafficking in persons, because the irregular adoptions that occurred in El Salvador have been to different countries," said the Pro-Search representative.

In addition, he noted that although some children have had a good life, they do not know that they were taken from their parents. "It is part of the impunity that this crime against humanity has not been denounced in the report of the truth, because there are other interests involved and there is no interest in giving priority to the victims," ​​he explained.

Portillo said that despite the time that has elapsed since the end of the conflict (27 years) El Salvador has not yet passed a Reparation Law for victims of the same. "What there was was an amnesty that came after the presentation of the truth report. With the amnesty, forgiveness and oblivion and thus these cases went unpunished," he said.
There is currently a legislative-level struggle for a comprehensive reparation law that includes the four basic pillars claimed by victims and their families: truth, justice, reparation and guarantee of non-repetition.

"Unfortunately, there is very little will in Salvadoran political power. Some have approached the victims, but it is very little, in general there is a lot of indifference and negativity. There are interests in between that want impunity to continue," he concluded.

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