The “Pro- Búsqueda” Women Fighters, El Salvador’s drama

Pro Búsqueda is an association supported by Entreculturas that tries to find boys and girls disappeared by force during the armed conflict in El Salvador between 1980 and 1991. The work of finding the disappeared sons and daughters is combined with political advocacy to advance on reconciliation and end impunity. Pro-Búsqueda finds necessary for the State to take on responsibility for what happened and to reinstate truth, confidence, freedom of expression and

El Salvador has lived one of the worst tortures that a human being can suffer: the disappearance by force of their sons and daughters. During the armed conflict in the 80s, thousands of boys and girls were torn away from their families, to spread terror among the population and to negotiate their freedom. Francisca is an example of a woman fighter who persevered in the search of her daughter, disappeared 23 years ago and given for adoption in France. This is the testimony she gave in Entreculturas; the heart wringing testimony of a brave woman who did not fear reprisals and who has found her daughter in France.

Entreculturas: How was the reunion with your daughter?

Francisca: A mother is afraid to face that moment even though it is what she has most wanted. In spite of being my dream for 24 years, I also thought "My God, how will she take me?" The moment I saw her I had no doubt that she was my daughter. I just hugged her. I could not say a word. I just cried and cried and cried.

My daughter is living very difficult moments. One knows that disappeared children suffer since they have a lack of identity. It really hurts me to see her like this, but I am very happy because although I was not with her when she was little, I can help her now.

Before I left, she wrote me a very long letter, saying wonderful things. She thanked me for going to find her from so far away. She wrote to me that she loved me, although she did not say so when I was with her. Now she knows that I did not leave her because I wanted to, but because I was forced to do so. I think that if slowly I can find a place in her heart, she will want to come to El Salvador.

EC: Your daughter was adopted by a French family. How was the relation with her adopted mother?

Francisca: At the beginning we could not agree. She said she was her daughter that she had brought her up. I said she was mine, I had her in my womb. Then she understood I was not there to take her away, that I was grateful that she loved her and had taken care of her. I only wanted to know how she was, how she is and tell her why I had to leave her. When I was with my daughter I told her that I knew she did not love me like her adopted mother, because I had not been with her. I also said to her "take care of your mother; she has taken care of you when you needed it. Now it is your turn to be brave". The lady liked this very much. I got to love her like my daughter and now we have become good friends.

EC: The road to find your daughter has not been easy. Can you tell us how you have felt?

Francisca: In 1983, pursued by the army, I had to leave my new born baby in a home. I wanted her to be in a safe place. When the war ended, they told me they had given her in adoption, but with whose permission? I said "My God, help me. Put someone in our way, a good person who will help us." In 1994, Father Jon Cortina, with the help of a few mothers, started Pro-Búsqueda. People encouraged me to go to them. "If you don't go, you will loose the opportunity to know who your daughter is and where she is" they told me.

After four or five years, the investigators told me "Francisca, we think we have found your daughter". They didn't say "we found her", they said "we think we have found her in France".

Then the psychological department of the Association worked with the adoptive family and with my daughter to get an identifying test. My daughter knew she was adopted, but she thought her mother had died years ago. It took her three years to consent to the identifying test.

EC: We know that there are still many families who do not come forward with a demand. Why is this?

Francisca: We mothers are still afraid of reprisals. There is so much pain and fear, that it is hard to do so. I had difficulty with my case, but there are always good people who encourage you and say "Come on, don't be afraid, nothing will happen to you, put your case forward". There are many neighbours who know me and know the suffering of loosing a child. I am grateful for the help of Pro-Búsqueda gave me and is still giving to thousands of women. Every encounter is another mother who will not stop suffering altogether, but who will suffer less.