Colombia is one of the countries with the highest rates in the world for adoption. In 2010, 216 children were adopted to international families from Colombia. While South America doesn’t account for a large percentage of adoptions, Colombia frequently makes the annual lists of most adopted children. There are many factors influencing this alarmingly high statistic, including the internal conflict that ravaged the country during the 1980s to the early 2000s.
Perhaps this could go some way to explaining why See Colombia Travel, an incoming tour-operator based in Bogotá, are finding a growing percentage of their client base are Colombian-born adoptees that wish to connect with their country of birth.
One such client is Nicole Kisala. Nicole had a relatively normal upbringing in the US where, after adapting to her new language, she grew up as a typical American school girl, embraced fully by her new culture. In this sense the story of Nicole is unexceptional. What Nicole always had to contend with, however, was that the only knowledge she has ever had access to of her biological family are the distant but vivid memories of her formative years in Colombia – and the dramatic story of how she was kidnapped.
Nicole was kidnapped and put up for adoption around the age of 4 or 5 from the small village of La Casa, Colombia. At the time she was living with her two parents and her brother in a small vending booth stand. It was a loving family, supported by the efforts of the father who sold gaseosa to fellow villagers. He had a dimple on his chin that features as one of Nicole’s abiding memories. So distinct in Nicole’s memory is this feature that when she saw John Travolta on screen for the first time she froze, convinced it was her father she was watching. Her mother was a caring woman with hair until the small of her back. Her mother, she remembers, would some days be very protective of her, insisting to Nicole that she would never speak to “the women in black”.
One day, after a typical childhood fight with her brother, Nicole left him and sat sulking on a wall. A woman in black approached. She wiped Nicole’s tears and comforted her. The two then walked off, initially to the bus stop and eventually to an adoption house. Her hair was cut as it was flea infested. Nicole was to stay here for a month before she was adopted. Her parents never received any record of where their child had gone.
Kidnapping was an all to common problem in Colombia that has, of late, received some long overdue attention thanks to articles from local newspaper El Tiempo and TV channel RCN. While statistics are obviously hard to come by, one set of data shows that in 2011 Colombia’s number of adopted children was roughly 620% higher than its closest Latin American counterpart, Guatemala. The average in Latin America, excluding Colombia, is below 10 per year. Moreover, Colombia is one of the few countries in the world in which it is legal to be adopted from abroad without the consent of the biological parents.
Nicole got in touch with See Colombia Travel because she is one of many adopted children that are now grown up and fully able to grasp the implications of what has happened to them. Nicole says that her desire is to reconnect with a family that does not know what happened to their child and to reconnect with the people that gave her such happy memories of her formative years.
Nicole will be visiting Colombia in July in hopes of finding some traces of her biological family. With her will be a news team from France, and we’ll be supporting her in anyway we can. We wish Nicole the best of luck, and we urge you to share her story in the hopes that it can reach someone who can help.
The Colombia Travel Blog team