by Rachel Vogt
My story began when I was only 2 months old.
At that time, my name was Mariana Lopez. My adoptive parents found out after my brother, Jesse, was born that they were unable to have any more children. They discussed adoption, specifically international adoption. I was adopted through a foundation in Colombia called FANA (a Spanish acronym for Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children). After the application process, all my parents were left to do was wait.
Nine months later, they were notified that there was a baby girl ready to be adopted.
That’s when I come in to the story.
It was a dream come true for them to have another child. The foundation sent them a picture of me, which they admired with love everyday despite not meeting me yet. Yet, a few days before they were due to leave, my parents found out that my mother was pregnant. Needless to say, they were shocked because the doctor had told them that there was a 0% chance that my mother could get pregnant again.
In July of that year, my new family boarded a plane to travel to Colombia to pick me up. My brother and father spent two weeks there, but had to go back home, leaving my mother (who spoke no Spanish) alone with me for an additional two weeks. After my parents met with the lawyer, they had to wait for the paperwork to go through the courts.
My mother waited anxiously for the next two weeks.
In August, I was brought to the United States. By September, I had become a United States citizen under my new name: Rachel Mariana Vogt.
My parents gave me an incredible life with many opportunities, for which I am forever grateful for, but growing up in a culture different from my own was confusing.
I felt connected to my Colombian roots, but knew very little about the culture. Still, I want to reconnect with the place I come from, and also learn about my family’s culture. I’m Colombian by birth, but German and Irish by association. This allowed me to develop both sides of my unique background.
It was not until sophomore year of college that I traveled back to Colombia for the first time since being adopted. It’s hard to describe what I felt, but I did feel like I was “home.”
I traveled with a non-profit organization called the Rise and Walk Foundation, which was founded by Hernan Bohorquez.
I remember meeting him for the first time during my interview.
I explained to him that I was a social work major with a strong interest in working with the elderly population. He told me that he sees many Colombian children who care deeply for the elderly and have a tender relationship with them. Hernan passed away suddenly in 2017, but what he told me has always stuck with me. It’s clear to me know that my desire to help the elderly stems from my Colombian roots.
About a year ago, I took the DNA test “23andMe” and discovered that I have DNA from Colombia, but also Europe and Africa. The test also helps you connect with distant relatives. Yet, I learned that I only had very distant cousins (between 3rd and 6th cousins) with less than 1% of DNA related to my own.
A little over a month ago, I received a message from a man named Nick, who happens to be my second cousin. I was shocked because I had never found a relative that was so closely related to me. We texted each other every day, excited that we had found a piece from home in ourselves.
Nick was adopted from the same orphanage two years before me. We have become really close, and have even made plans to meet in the future.
It’s been a month since I found out about Nick, but I’m still in awe that I actually have a cousin who shares DNA with me.
In the end, DNA does not make a family. My parents, who share no DNA with me, have become my family through adoption. My brother and sister have become my closest of friends. People have come into my life who I now consider family.
Needless to say, I’m forever grateful to my parents for choosing this fuzzy-headed baby girl who just wanted a home.