Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Scripta Nova


Guatemala, unlike most Latin American nations in the decades from 1990-2010, saw its rate of transnational adoptions of children rise. This article suggests that the usual explanation for this phenomenon –that thousands of children were displaced by the war, and that the country has no domestic “culture of adoption”– is inaccurate. On the contrary, it argues, transnational adoption from Guatemala began its ignominious history in kidnappings by militaries and paramilities during the 40-year civil war. Most of those children were adopted within the country (showing that Guatemalans do adopt, given the chance), but some were adopted in the U.S. and Europe. The victory by neoliberal forces in the war is mirrored in what happened to adoption: despite decades of efforts at reform, adoption became a very lucrative business for judges, social workers, lawyers, and others. The success of recent efforts to slow or halt transnational adoption from Guatemala will depend on whether those who profited from it find the indirect benefits of an improved “human rights record” to be worthwhile.