Maria Angelica Gonzelez last saw her newborn son in 1981, more than 40 years ago. One of the nurses at the hospital had told her that he had to be placed in an incubator as he was born prematurely. Not long afterward, she came back and told her that the newborn had died.
For more than four decades, Gonzalez believed that was the truth. However, it had been a lie all along.
In reality, her son, Jimmy Thyden, was taken from his Chilean family and adopted by unknown parents in the U.S. Raised in Arlington, Virginia, Thyden always thought he had no living family members in his native Chile.
It wasn’t until one day when he read a story about an American man who found out he was taken from his parents in Chile and illegally adopted out into the U.S. that he began to wonder whether or not the same thing happened to him. With some digging, he found out the truth within weeks.
Last week, Thyden finally got to meet and hug his mom for the first time after traveling to her home in Valdivia, Chile.
Sobbing, Gonzalez placed her hands on her face as Thyden embraced her in a hug.
With tears in his eyes, Thyden told his mother “Te amo mucho” or “I love you so much.”
Gonzalez later described the reunion as “a miracle from god”. She also said that she was in disbelief when she learned that he was still alive.
Thyden, who lives in Ashburn, Virginia, with his two daughters and wife, said the reunion was both incredible and complicated for him as he gets to know the rest of his family, including four brothers and a sister.
He said that while he’s happy they’re able to spend time together now, he “laments the loss of 42 years with [his] family.” He’s also frustrated about losing his culture and not having shared memories together.
Stolen Children From Chile
More than 20,000 babies were stolen from mothers in Chile, most of whom were from low-income families, and adopted by unwitting parents overseas from the 1960s to 1990s. The practice involved an elaborate human trafficking system that involved a number of midwives, priests, social workers, judges, and nuns, many of whom became wealthy from the scheme.
It wasn’t until 2014 that the whole thing came to light when a news agency wrote about a few cases involving a doctor and a priest. It was also during that time that the stolen babies, now grown-up, found out that weren’t given up willingly by their parents like they thought they had.
Since 2014, nonprofits have helped reunite more than 650 children who were stolen from their Chilean parents and adopted to families in the United States, Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Australia, and Peru.
In the U.S., most of Chile’s stolen children find out about their hidden pasts after coming across news stories. Just last April, six people found out the truth about their pasts after reading a news article on USA Today.
the process is also sped up with donated tests from MyHeritage. Before that, families would have to travel from Chile to Santiago to submit a DNA test. Now, they can get the DNA tests done much quicker.
According to company spokeswoman Sarah Vanunu, the company has donated over 20,000 DNA kits across the world.
Thyden has now joined a growing community of individuals who have learned the truth about their past and have reconnected with their birth parents. The support network currently consists of more than 40 adoptees in the U.S., many of whom find comfort in knowing they’re not alone in the situation.
Thyden, who works as a criminal defense attorney, said that the state of Chile needs to be held accountable now. First and foremost, he wants the government to recognize the harm that they’ve done and to help identify and reunite families that have been separated. He also believes counseling should be provided for the families and that anyone who was involved with trafficking the babies should be prosecuted.
In the meantime, he is bonding with his Chilean parents and siblings and creating their first memories together. Just after meeting them for the first time, the group sang “Happy Birthday” to him in Spanish and presented him with 42 balloons, one for each year that they missed together.
Some of the balloons also had personal messages written on them such as “Welcome to our home” and “I love You”. One of them also had a special message from his mama – “You’re the most beautiful chapter of my story”.