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A Disappeared Adoptee Reunites with Revolutionary Roots - with Nelson de Witt - Ep 133

Unraveling Adoption

Release Date: 02/19/2024

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My adoptive father talked about it as my birthright to go back to Central America. I really like that framing. So I think that was part of the reason why they let me go on so many trips and that was such a wonderful experience. - Nelson de Witt Discover the shocking truth about Nelson de Witt's journey to uncover his past after being adopted from Central America. His story is a heart-wrenching tale of forced disappearances, political strife, and the courage to face the truth. Nelson's experiences will leave you in awe and disbelief as he navigates the complexities of adoption and the impact...

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My adoptive father talked about it as my birthright to go back to Central America. I really like that framing. So I think that was part of the reason why they let me go on so many trips and that was such a wonderful experience. - Nelson de Witt

Discover the shocking truth about Nelson de Witt's journey to uncover his past after being adopted from Central America. His story is a heart-wrenching tale of forced disappearances, political strife, and the courage to face the truth. Nelson's experiences will leave you in awe and disbelief as he navigates the complexities of adoption and the impact of historical and cultural tragedies. Stay tuned to learn more about Nelson's daring quest for truth and how it continues to shape his life today.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Understand the impact of forced disappearances on families in Central and South America.

  • Explore the complexities of political conflicts in Central America and how it impacted him as an adopted person.

  • Dive into the importance of understanding historical and cultural contexts of adoptees' early lives.

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My special guest is Nelson de Witt

Nelson de Witt, also known as Nelson/Roberto, is an advocate and survivor of El Salvador's civil war. He experienced a forced disappearance as a one-year-old and was reunited with his birth family at the age of 16. Nelson's personal story sheds light on the impact of forced disappearances on families. Through his experiences, he brings a unique perspective that helps to unravel the complexities of adoption and the historical and cultural context of the forced disappearances in Central and South America. His insights and advocacy work contribute to a greater understanding of the profound effects of such events on those involved - adopted or not.

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

  • Visit Nelson/Roberto's website at Nelsonroberto.com to learn more about his documentary film Identifying Nelson/Buscando Roberto and his book Waking from Innocent Dreams.

  • Check out the book Missing Mila, Finding Family written by Nelson's adoptive mother, which provides her perspective on the adoption story: https://amzn.to/4bDAABo

  • Keep an eye out for Nelson's upcoming story workshops for adoptees, which he may be launching publicly later in the year.

  • Follow Nelson on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/dewittn19/

Impact of Forced Disappearances
Influenced by social, political, and personal factors, forced disappearances have far-reaching impacts on families and societies. The individuals left behind wrestle with prolonged uncertainty, emotional distress, and other psychological ramifications. Being aware of the deep emotional trauma fostered by forced disappearances aids us in comprehending the resilience shown by survivors and provides better support and understanding to those affected.

Political Conflicts in Central America
Historical instances of political unrest in Central America have resulted in numerous human rights violations, including forced disappearances. These conflicts are multifaceted, characterized by fluid alliances, entrenched inequality, and differing ideological perspectives. By understanding these complexities, we gain a deeper insight into the atmosphere that gives rise to phenomena such as forced disappearances and how these events impact individuals and communities. 

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Other Resources:

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Unraveling Adoption is produced and hosted by Beth Syverson

Music written and performed by Joseph Nakao

Email questions or comments to [email protected]

Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

Support Unraveling Adoption on Patreon: Patreon.com/UnravelingAdoption

Check out our website: www.UnravelingAdoption.com

Create your own podcast through Libsyn: https://signup.libsyn.com/?promo_code=ADOPTION

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Timestamped summary of this episode:
00:00:00 - Introduction and Background
Beth introduces the podcast and herself as an adoptive mom, along with her guest Nelson de Witt. Nelson shares his experience of being separated from his birth family during El Salvador's civil war and being reunited with them at the age of 16.

00:01:09 - Growing Up and Discovery
Nelson talks about growing up in his adoptive family, being told he was adopted, and the mystery surrounding his adoption. He shares the shocking news of being reunited with his biological family and the intense emotions and overwhelming experience of meeting them for the first time.

00:04:18 - Adoption and Reunion
Nelson's adoptive parents share the harrowing discovery of Nelson's origins, including his parents being revolutionaries in the civil war, the kidnapping of a businessman, and the tragic events that led to Nelson being put up for adoption in the United States.

00:10:30 - Complexities of Central American History
Nelson delves into the complex history of conflict in Central America, highlighting the repressive government, violent suppression of activists, and the desperate measures people took to fight back, including taking up arms as a last resort.

00:13:26 - The Disappeared and Forced Disappearances
Nelson explains the term "disappeared" and its origin, detailing how individuals were forcibly abducted by the state as a tactic of fear or intimidation during the civil war in El Salvador. He also shares personal accounts of friends who were taken at gunpoint.

00:14:40 - Forced Disappearance in Central and South America
Nelson discusses the backdrop of the term "disappeared" (Desaparacido) and the cultural significance rooted in families missing loved ones. Over 100,000 people have been forcibly disappeared since 1950, with the majority presumed dead.

00:16:08 - The Unresolved Mystery
Nelson shares his experience of being reunited with his birth father at 16, who knew about his survival and adoption but had no idea about what happened to his wife and child. The unresolved fate of his birth mother is a lingering question.

00:18:27 - Reconnecting with Birth Family
Nelson reflects on his incredible journey of reuniting with his birth family and the challenges and excitement of embracing a new culture. He acknowledges the support and difficulty faced by his adoptive parents throughout the process.

00:21:26 - The Nature of Adoption
Nelson emphasizes the importance of acknowledging an adoptee's history and roots, beyond the nurture received from adoptive parents. He shares the positive impact of being allowed to explore his birthright in Central America.

00:25:19 - Continuing Issue of Forced Disappearances
The conversation ends on a poignant note as Nelson highlights the ongoing issue of forced disappearances in Central and South America to this day. He calls for awareness and support to make necessary changes.