I first met Diana in Aquismon on Thanksgiving Day in November. Six years old with a bright smile, she charmed all of us. A few days later, she moved to San Ciro de Acosta and my friend Bonnie became her new mother. Diana’s mother had abandoned her shortly after she gave birth and Diana had been living with her grandmother.
I first met Bonnie in a Facebook group back in November. I was looking for a small non-expat town where I could focus both on my writing and on my Spanish. Bonnie is from Texas and had married a Mexican and moved to San Ciro. Her mother Connie had moved to San Ciro a couple of months before I arrived.
I was curious as to why Bonnie and Ricky were so eager to adopt a child. Both have children and grandchildren from previous marriages. While Ricky’s family are here in Mexico, Bonnie had left all of her family behind in Texas. In addition, Bonnie’s daughter had died at the young age of 28 only 3 years before. To quote Bonnie, “I was left with an empty feeling. I was very lonely and I’ve always loved kids. When I saw how many kids really needed homes, I really became interested in adopting.”
They spoke with staff at DIF and learned that adoption is a difficult and long process here in Mexico. Ricky thought that maybe someone might give them their baby if they could not afford to feed and clothe another child. Months went by and they had resigned themselves to the fact that if it was God’s will an opportunity might arise.
And an opportunity did arise unexpectedly when they hired a boat guide one day. They had taken one of the neighbor’s children on their excursion that day. Mr. Martinez saw how they interacted and asked if Luis was their only child, Bonnie jokingly told him that Luis wasn’t their child, but that they were looking to adopt. He told them that his sister was raising her granddaughter and was looking for a home for her. Phone numbers were exchanged. Mr. Martinez invited them over for dinner. A friendship developed and the families began to see each other regularly. However no word was ever spoken about the child.
We were eating dinner on Thanksgiving Day when Bonnie and Ricky were asked if they’d like to meet Diana. After dinner, Bonnie and Ricky went to Mr. Martinez’s sister’s home and a couple of hours later they returned with Diana and her grandmother. Apparently Diana had already told her teacher that she was moving far away.
Bonnie and Ricky wanted to make sure that everything was done legally. Four days later they returned to Aquismon to pick up Diana. They consulted with a lawyer in Aquismon who drew up documents granting them full custody and guardianship. These papers were signed by Bonnie, Ricky, the grandmother and Mr. Martinez.
Adoption is complicated here. Had they gone that route, the process would have taken two years or more and Diana would be placed in an orphanage for that time period. As it stands, they are not allowed to take Diana out of the country. They also opted not to change her name as that would have added an additional 50,000 pesos to the legal fees already incurred.
The next step was to enrol Diana in a public school. Registration was 480 pesos and fees for the uniforms were another 2000 pesos. They also had to pay 80 pesos for breakfast fees although the school has yet to provide any food in this program. Students are expected to be immaculately groomed and in full uniform. Points are deducted from their grades if they are not.
The school itself has no heat or air conditioning. Parents must purchase all supplies, including toilet paper. Parents take turns cleaning the classrooms. They are also responsible for setting out cones to control traffic before and after school.
Parents are also expected to bring lunch to the children each day. Bonnie hands Diana her lunch through the bars as parents are not allowed on the campus. There are no chairs or tables and the children eat their lunch standing up outside in the courtyard.
Diana is adjusting remarkably well to her new life. She is learning to play and be a child instead of working in the sugar cane fields after school. She has made friends and eagerly shares her new toys and dolls with them. She has been introduced to swimming and indoor plumbing. Her diet now includes a variety of healthy foods in addition to the rice and beans she was accustomed to.
Most importantly, Diana is basking in the glow of all the love that Bonnie and Ricky have to offer. And I feel blessed that I have been a part of their lives and have shared in this amazing experience.