Thousands in Mexico Ask About Adopting a Haitian Child

Thousands in Mexico Ask About Adopting a Haitian ChildHuman trafficking concerns are growing over lost or orphaned children in Haiti. (See the case of the ten American Baptists arrested for trying to move Haitian kids into the D.R. without papers, and TFT coverage here.) In Mexico, the response to the situation of Haiti’s children took an unexpected turn last week. The mayor of the capital, Marcelo Ebrard, said during a public event with a Mexican search and rescue crew that the Federal District was “ready” to embrace young Haitian refugees as “future sons and daughters of our Mexico City.”

Almost immediately, officials later said, inquiries began streaming into the tiny Haitian embassy located here. More than 2,500 calls, emails, or visits were recorded between Monday and Wednesday alone, said Moise Dorce, the ranking diplomat at the embassy. Those thousands is a remarkable number given that no adoption accord or apparatus exists between the two countries. And given also that so many children in Mexico as it is are homeless or orphaned.

For a bit of comparison, only about 300 such requests were reported in Brazil.

Yolanda Martinez, a 50-year-old housewife, was one of the hopeful visitors to the embassy last Tuesday. She said she had two grown sons, and was moved by the images of suffering in Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake. “I am a housewife, my husband works, so I would like, with all my love and with all my heart, to adopt a girl,” Martinez said expressively, clutching her hands together. “I don’t have daughters.”

Countering the confusion, authorities at the federal family institute, the UNICEF office in Mexico, and the foreign relations ministry all released statements reiterating that no adoptions are in fact taking place between Mexico and Haiti, and that such adoptions would in fact be discouraged, as authorities believe many children in Haiti are only separated from their families, not orphaned. Ebrard simply spoke too soon.

“There are many, many” people still calling, Dorce said, standing inside the busy embassy, where workers and volunteers had to start denying aid donations because they simply can’t handle any more coming in. “One noteworthy case, a woman came asking, ‘Let me see them. I want to see them.’”

Only about 30 Haitians have so far arrived in Mexico since Jan. 12, Dorce said. All had previous ties to Mexico, through families or institutions.

In Ebrard’s comments, according to the official bulletin, he made a worthwhile reference to Mexico’s proud tradition of asylum. Many Spaniards settled here escaping the Spanish Civil War, so did Jews, Germans and Italians escaping fascism during World War II, and many waves of immigrants escaping war and political persecution in South and Central America later found a home in Mexico City as well.

The mayor’s interior secretary declined a request to elaborate on what was said, but the implication was clear enough. Mexico, forever changed after the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, has been deeply moved by the Haiti disaster. Tens of thousands of tons of aid have left Mexican ports for “Puerto Príncipe,” as the Haitian capital is called here.

President Felipe Calderon said in the days following the quake that Mexicans feel the losses as “if they are our own” and that “no one knows better than us” what Haiti is suffering. On a day that I visited the Haitian embassy, a man from a neighboring state showed up with a trunk full of medicines, but was politely told he could not leave them as donations. Another a man who said he was a structural engineer showed up to offer his services, making reference to 1985, but was told he’d have to travel to Haiti on his own if he wanted to help.

One volunteer, Hilda Lizardi, said she had been at the embassy helping out every day for two weeks straight. “It’s surprised me that so many people have given so much. Diapers, medicines. My respects to all the people, for the solidarity,” Lizardi said. “Brigades would come [from the major universities], Boy Scouts, mothers and small children, men in suits.”

The idea that Mexicans of means would adopt Haitian children in the aftermath of the quake, however, did not sit well with her.

“That’s something else,” Lizardi said. “Let me tell you something. Here in Mexico, we have many children who don’t have families, who are orphans. It’s absurd to me that people would like to do social work, for appearances, by adopting a child from another place.”


Daniel Hernandez is a journalist and commentator based in Mexico City. His work on politics, arts, culture, and media has appeared in publications throughout the United States, Europe, and Latin Ameri more


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