Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | June 11, 2010

Clara Rojas and Emmanuel

Dearest Emmanuel, you moved us. You are a symbol of peace. Emmanuel, we do expect great things to come from you.

Ingrid Betancourt is world-wide famous. (In part, thanks to her mother, who rivals some of the best publicists, ever. Yolanda Pulecio woke me one morning at 8 am. “So when are you writing about my daughter?” she demanded. Yolanda was my grandfather’s friend, that’s how she got a hold of my phone number. She’s a nice lady, pretty, a former beauty queen. The insistence came from the thought of her daughter, rotting in the jungle. Anyone would do the same. Her hair-dresser did share, though, that Ms. Pulecio always had her hair done before press conferences.) Ingrid was a presidential candidate, one which was not expected to win, when she and Clara Rojas were abducted in a FARC-controlled region on February 23, 2002. The world knows less about Clara Rojas. Clara was Ingrid’s best-friend and, consequently, post-abduction, she was declared Ingrid’s running mate.

Clara seems to have more to say, seems to have observed more. She keeps it to herself. It’s hard to have facetime with Clara. Clara is the deeper of the two, perhaps. Clara had a son, Emmanuel, while in captivity. The father was a FARC member. That’s all we are likely to know about the circumstances that conceived Emmanuel.

On that note, this is how Colombia differs from North America: Colombians called Clara a despicable woman for having had a son with a FARC. Shame on you, Colombians. It probably never occurred to you, that she could have been raped? Instead, Americans and Canadians hailed it as something to be celebrated; six years in captivity, in the last of the ovulating years, did not prevent her from experiencing the joy of motherhood. Good for her, they said. Si, good for her.

Clara gave birth in extremely rudimentary conditions: A FARC woman performed the C-section with a dirty rusted kitchen knife. Emmanuel was yanked out and his arm was hurt. He suffered from leishmaniasis caused by insect bites; he was malnourished.

Dear Emmanuel, you have already enlightened us to pay attention to the hundreds of children born under those circumstances. To the mothers who die in child birth. To the the mid-wives and the lack of equipment to assuage the pain. Clara called the medicine “artisanal.”

The FARC handed over Emmanuel to a peasant couple to take care of him. They already had five children, and the woman was pregnant with the sixth. Emmanuel was extremely sick and the couple brought him to a government-run clinic, posed as his legal caretakers, said his mom was a deceased relative. Alarmed because Emmanuel was so sick, and even showing signs of having being tortured, the doctors called the Ministry of Family Welfare and Emmanuel was taken to a communal home, then to a foster home in Bogotá.

When the identity of this little boy in foster care was discovered, Colombia was captivated! (Even Oliver Stone paid attention.) Long live, Emmanuel! Born in captivity for a reason; with the destiny to work towards peace?

Turns out, the peasant couple who took care of the baby boy were FARC collaborators. The man has been charged with kidnapping. Allegedly, the five children were hostages.

A tale to unspin: If the man was collaborating with the FARC, why did he bring Emmanuel to a government-run clinic? Why did the man defy the FARC, as he claims, by traveling there and caring enough to get Emmanuel proper treatment? (Listen up, Oliver Stone, the conflict and drama in your movie have been set-up.)

Dearest Emmanuel, no pressure, but we do expect great things to come from you. You are a lucky little boy. You have a lucky, lucky, lucky mommy. God bless you both. Take care of each other.

First images of Clara Rojas freed

Clara Rojas speaks about Emmanuel’s birth. When she first met her son, “it was the happiest moment.”

Clara Rojas and Emmanuel are reunited

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