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Destined for Export


Family history: the phenomenon of widespread, wrongful international adoption in Guatemala, and its long shadow

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.

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