First off, I want to say thank you to Latino Rebels to allowing me to publish these thoughts with them. So often the stories of adoptees, while fraught with difficulty, are told through the eyes and words of others. The opportunity to share my words with you all is a blessing and privilege not lost on me.
Next, this is for every adoptee out there working and wondering—we are worth being seen and heard!
We are worth our dreams, and we are worth more than our tears; while we deserve more than their fear.
That said, let us begin.
After 36 years of fighting everyone and everything…
This is the first year, the first time, in my life that I will be able to tell the woman who gave birth to me, thank you for this life, and on the day marking when it was first given to me.
How’d that happen?
Some readers may remember the trilogy I published at the beginning of last year, and for those who do not.
I was adopted by white Evangelicals to Minnesota soon after I was born.
And, just like Joe Biden before an audience of women, immigrants, or any non-white males, my captors will say that they are sorry, maybe even that they have since learned better, and assuredly, that such consequences were never their intention.
All while actions, and inaction, continue to speak louder than words ever will.
An Ungraded Essay
It was the beginning of the 1990’s.
We, my adopted parents and I, had recently moved into a new house in the plush Western suburbs of Minneapolis.
The den had recently been remodeled.
Pheasant and fowl decorated the walls, along with the mounted antlers of past conquests.
A newly purchased gun cabinet sat, fully stocked, in the corner of the room.
I was burrowed into the hunter green futon, huddled close to … my purchaser, reading the first essay I had ever written for school.
Either in kindergarten or first grade at the time; the assignment was to write our three wishes.
My first wish was to find my mother.
My second wish was to see my sister.
And my face was awash in tears before I could speak my third wish.
She always knew, yet she did nothing but find fodder for entertainment in my tears and fears.
Some people wonder why I despise whiteness, and colonizers.
Here is where those first seeds of disdain and distrust were planted.
Hope Between the Li(n)es
Writing the trilogy for Latino Rebels was an act of catharsis for me.
To lay down my journey, or at least a concise yet inclusive encapsulation of it, was a big step towards my own healing.
The only other time I had had such an opportunity was while in solitary confinement during my last trip to the Minneapolis Adult Detention Center.
At that time, I had asked to be placed in solitary confinement; and for a pencil.
Just me, my memories, and four white walls.
I diagrammed my life until that moment, trying to make sense of all that had happened to bring me to such a place.
Now, nearly a decade later, I was in an apartment overlooking the city of Medellín, blocks away from the infamous Comuna 13.
Closer to home than I had ever been; and the only thing, the only person, missing was my mamá.
Recounting my own story to that point, being where I was; I knew what I had to do.
Months previous, I had joined a Facebook group for adoptees from Colombia.
They always tell us to be prepared for the worst when we go searching for our biological families.
But I dunno. I sometimes wonder who they are talking to when they say this.
We were already separated from our mothers … the worst case scenario for us is to never know the truth behind that action.
Often our captors, I think, have more to fear than we do; but anywho, I digress.
I didn’t have enough money, at the time, to pay for an investigator; but I had the heart to start the process.
I mean, was my mother even alive?
Colombia… Bogotá… In the 1980’s it was not a luxurious locale for many; and continues to be a rugged terrain for most.
Hell, were the papers that I had even real?!?
Truth be told, that question had already been answered months before when they let me reclaim my citizenship; though… bureaucracies are funny mechanisms, you can never be too certain about what they pass for truth.
Either way, one of the members of the Facebook group knew a private investigator who might be able to help, I was told.
No cash up-front, as first we needed to see if the information I had was even connected to a real person; and if that person was still around.
What’s the opposite of a panic attack?
When I got the news, that’s what I had.
For over three decades, through heavens and hells unspeakable, my heart had always known; but every where the shadows of doubt were cast to bury me in darkness.
Though now we knew…for certain, without any doubt—I had a mamá, and she was real!
She lived, and so did I.
We saw the same sun, felt the same moon, and just like Fievel Mousekewitz, we cast our wishes upon the same bright stars.
And one day soon, I would be held in her arms, and she in mine. This I now knew for certain.
Presents Wrapped in Tax Refunds
That’s the one thing about living under the poverty line—either you don’t have to file taxes, or when April rolls around, you can count on a refund!
And this year, I knew exactly what that money was getting spent on.
I was hoping to find my mother before our birthdays, which are just days apart.
Though that was not in the cards last year.
The investigator was going to need to travel to Bogotá to learn more about her whereabouts.
A few phone numbers attached to the other numbers we had.
While my mother continues to be a niñera; and the most up-to-date information had her living in Mexico.
Though my sister still lived in Bogotá.
She was contacted; and at first, quite naturally, my sister thought it was a con, or a prank.
She hung up.
Her mother didn’t have any other children, and she most certainly didn’t have a brother!
Nonetheless, she’d have to ask her mother about this… and, welp.
I’m real, my mamá’s real; my sister does have a brother.
And I was lookin’ for ‘em.
Blood Tests and Bypasses
Living in Medellín at the time. My Spanish remains barely passable.
I can get around, and if I speak few enough words, people just think I’m a little slow in the head—it works.
Though recently I had met a few friends who were traveling towards Bogotá the next weekend, and they said that I could hitch a ride with them!
And so it would be.
I found a room in which to crash for the weekend, and that Friday my sister had a time and place set for us to meet.
She was going to treat her little brother to lunch near the city’s center.
I don’t even know how to explain it.
After living your entire life surrounded by white people, while even those who do look like you treat you as a foreigner.
To see someone who didn’t just look like me, but was family.
The blood that runs through my own veins, also runs through theirs.
To see that depth of reflection …
There are only two other moments in my life to which I can compare, and one still had yet to be.
Sidenote: if there is one other thing that I had been missing my whole life, it was sancocho—breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is always the perfect meal!!! With a glass of agua panela … a feast fit for royalty in my book!
I was a kid again. My sister’s baby brother.
A toddler in a toy store couldn’t have been happier than I was that afternoon.
After lunch, we went for a walk in the plaza; and my sister asked me, “Would you be willing to get a blood test?”
There was a pause; it’s an awkward question to have to ask …
She quickly followed up with, “I mean you’re exactly like mom, but …”
Without hesitation I agreed.
I had nothing to fear, and I wanted to be certain myself.
I had been living other people’s lies since infancy, often for their entertainment; I too needed to be sure.
Suffice to say, I still haven’t taken a blood test.
The Eventual Reunion
My mother was working for a family in Chile.
Though the following weekend she made the trip back up to Bogotá, and I made the trip back down from Medellín—even if only for a few days.
It’s one of those things for which you make the time, and you build the way.
I stayed at my sister’s place that first night, and in the morning, guess who was standing over my bed staring at me like it had only been a few years ??
I jumped outta bed faster than a gringo-runt on Christmas morning; arms open wider than ever before and wrapped back up again around my mama!
I sat in her lap, wrapped in her arms for the rest of that weekend; and Jesus Christ himself couldn’t tell me otherwise.
‘Cept when we took our first family trip to Montserrat.
Haha, my sister said my mamá and I were exactly alike …
Funny story …
The line to take the tram up the mountain was a few hours long.
And when we finally got within reach of the entrance, lo’ and behold, there was another, larger, group that was allowed to butt in-line ahead of us.
My mamea would hear none of this nonsense.
You’re damn straight, that employee got himself an earful!!!
My sister just sighed, and I… well, if this gentleman was going to give my mother any push-back, I wasn’t going to hear any of that either!!
Jajaja, that’s our family though!
My mom’s sister traveled down from the mountains, and another tía traveled from across town that evening; both walked in the room, wondering who this strange man was in my sister’s apartment …
While upon being told…our spirits knew—no one was letting go this time!
This past Christmas I was able to meet many of my cousins and their families.
We drank cervezas and guaro, dancing until dawn that Christmas Eve.
And for New Years I got to meet my abuela, while visiting the family farm.
I walked the land my soul had been searching for ever since we first drew breath.
Helped my uncle milk the cows in the morning, and if ever mi abuela needed anything, there is no greater honor in my life than to serve her and her children.
She is the reason I do all that I do, and that I am all that I am.
And she is why this Saturday, I won’t even try to count my blessings; I’ll just say nzhinga, gracias, thank you, to her and her daughter for the blessing it is to be their child.
And then I’ll curl up in a ball and cry tears of joy breathing this beautiful Colombian air, surrounded by the same mountains, rivers and valleys that have run through my every moment since before my birth; singing the songs my ancestors sang in my soul to help me find my way back home.
Happy birthday me, thanks, mamá—zhwaïá, mi madre, my mother.
umchuta, su hijo, your child,
Canin Carlos Apriori-Mendoza (Culture Clap)
Canin Carlos is an artist, entrepreneur and educator. This essay is part of a birthday re-release of his poetry collection entitled White Like Me, The Incoherent Ramblings of an Unmedicated Adolescent; along with a timely release of a learn to code ebook called Rebel Coding. You can find him on your favorite social media platform as Culture Clap.