Adoption is often idealized as an altruistic, almost saintly act. But, throughout history and across cultures, the paths babies have taken to reach those well-meaning parents have frequently involved coercion or trafficking. In a report for the April issue, Rachel Nolan examines the checkered history of international adoptions from Guatemala, once one of the world’s top sources of adoptive children. Following one adoptee, Jean-Sebastien Hertsens Zune, as he returns in search of his origins, Nolan writes that “Zune is part of a wave of adult adoptees who are now returning to Guatemala to face disconcerting revelations about their pasts.”
In this week’s episode, Nolan, a historian of modern Latin America and lecturer at Columbia University, speaks with web editor Violet Lucca about the ways Guatemalan adoption complicates civil war, family, and attempts at reconciliation.