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Watch a Man Reunite With His Birth Mother 41 Years After Being Stolen

posted: 05/26/15
by: TLCme

Travis Tolliver always knew he'd been adopted. The 41-year-old Tacoma, Washington, import distribution center supervisor grew up in a loving home by parents who were happy to have a baby of their own. But what he didn't know -- couldn't have known -- was that he'd actually been stolen from his birth mother in his home country of Chile, one of hundreds of children willfully stolen by the Chilean government in the 1970s and '80s.

Tolliver's birth mother, Nelly Reyes, says that when her son was born in 1973, she was just 19 years old. Though the pregnancy was without complications, a nurse came to her shortly after the birth and told her that her son had been born with a heart condition. Several hours later, she'd been told that he had died. She was never shown his body or given a death certificate.

Called "Children of Silence," the Chilean government's program of removing children from their mothers and "disappearing" them was, says Marcela Labra?a, the director of the country's child protection agency, a way to remove "socially embarrassing" children from families or to provide infertile couples with children. Often, Chile's Pinochet dictatorship, which ruled the country from 1973 to 1990, would conspire with family, doctors, or the Catholic church to take a baby away from a woman. It's unclear if any money changed hands for the children.

Since reuniting with his birth mother, Tolliver's learned that he has five new siblings -- and a whole new culture to learn about. Tolliver doesn't speak any Spanish and his birth mother doesn't speak English, so they're struggling to learn about one another. He still sees his adoptive mother as his mother. "I am who I am because of what she did for me. She's always going to have a place in my heart and it's not like I'm replacing her or anything like that."