Saturday, September 8, 2007

Baby Fever in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY-- As we are jumping from hotel to hotel within Guatemala, one thing has really stood out for me-- A LOT of couples staying at these hotels have come to adopt babies. I have read articles about foreigners coming to Central America to adopt babies, but seeing the baby frenzy first hand really blew me away.

Hotels here really cater to these couples who are going through the process of adopting. Baby business is done in the lobby of hotels, and parents-to-be can be seen giving the babies back at the end of the day after their visitation hours are up. It is sort of a surreal scene.

While having breakfast one morning in the hotel restaurant, I noticed one British adoptive mom carry her little Guatemalan baby over her shoulders. My mind just started racing. My husband and I then began discussing our thoughts as outsiders looking in: Does the baby have other siblings here? Will this baby ever remember the cultural richness of their home country? Will the new parents keep their Guatemalan names? If the baby comes back as an adult, will Guatemala ever feel like home to them? Will the new parents ever bring them back to visit? Do some people view these parents as foreigners swooping in, like always, taking something for a cheaper price? Will the baby get to graduate college now because of this? Will the baby ever learn to speak Spanish or will they ever enjoy marimba music?

There are so many challenging questions and inner struggles that all these adoptive parents who I see checking in and out of these hotels must have asked themselves. And who knows if there even is a right answer for any of them. But one thing is certain, there is no doubt that the life of these babies is dramatically going to change once they leave these hotel doors.


Wechsler said...

Nancy-- those are all really great questions. We can wish every single parent there to adopt will think-- seriously think about the questions you raise-- and for sure some of them will. I know parents who have adopted from other countries besides the US and they have done every thing they can think of to keep their children connected to their country of birth. And yes some of those children will learn Spanish and some of them will have siblings that, if they are lucky, their adoptive parents locate and help them keep in touch and connected to. There are so many issues of race and racism and culture and only some of those parents are going to get it. Some will get it and will go on to continue learning even more. There are even some good books out there that raise the questions you raise. My former partner and I spent hours and hours (running into weeks and months) talking to friends about the difference between adopting from Central/Latin America and adopting from the United States. And if you adopt from the US, we talked about what the differences would be between adopting an African-American child and a child who was "bi-racial." We talked to our friends from those back-grounds, as well as our white friends. And when we knew we had the support of those we needed the support of-- we adopted a baby who was born in Texas, is bi-racial and is now-- 15 1/2 years later-- my oh so very amazing teenage daughter. She identifies as African-American, and sometimes because she looks Latina, she will say she is African-American and Latina (or Puerto Rican). She isn't messed up about her identity, she is quite clear about it, and is comfortable in herself and in her diverse group of friends. (At least as much as any teenager is comfortable with themselves.) And because she is African-American, our family is multi-racial. But people really need to be prepared to think about all of your questions as well as others as they think about adopting from another country, or from the United States. And I am realizing as I end this short rant-- that I am writing assuming that this will be a cross-racial or cross-national adoption (which is also what you were writing about). Which it usually is for a lot of reasons, most of which have to do with the racism of the adoption agencies and who they think of as "good enough parents." And that is a whole other subject, isn't it?
Nancy Wechsler, who met you when you came to Boston

Nancy said...

Thank you for sharing your story and insights. It's definitely a lot to think about. I was glad to be exposed to just a tiny bit of the world of Guatemalan adoptions.