Published January 13, 2015
Recently released Colombian hostage Clara Rojas was reunited Sunday with her 3-year-old son, who was fathered by one of her guerrilla captors but taken away from her months after he was born.
Rojas gave birth to Emmanuel in 2004, but the guerrillas separated her from the child when he was 8 months old. A peasant delivered him to Colombian social services, which — unaware of his true identity — placed him in the foster home in the capital, Bogota, where he has been for the past two years.
Accompanied by her aging mother and brother, Rojas returned to Bogota on Sunday nearly six years after she was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and held captive in the jungle. On Thursday the FARC handed over Rojas and another kidnapped politician, former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez, to a Venezuelan-led delegation which then moved the hostages to Caracas.
The meeting between mother and son lasted about two hours.
Neighbors flocked to greet her at the house where Emmanuel has been staying in recent days in preparation to be reunited with his mother. "Freedom!" some shouted.
Rojas earlier said Emmanuel made her a gift.
"I have heard that he has made a little something for me," she said.
Rojas was visibly emotional as she arrived in Bogota and was greeted by the defense minister and chief peace negotiator.
"I am extremely moved to be back in my land. ... I feel like I've been reborn, I am back to life," Rojas said. But she added: "This is not a total happiness because many (hostages) remain and we are waiting for them."
The FARC holds nearly four-dozen high-profile captives including three U.S. defense contractors and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, who was abducted alongside Rojas and remains with the rebels.
Shortly before her release, authorities discovered Emmanuel living in the foster home and guessed his identity based on what little was known about him, including that he had a fractured arm. DNA tests later confirmed their suspicions.
Rojas has worn a photo of her son around her neck since she was freed, and child psychologists showed the boy pictures of her before their meeting to try to ease the transition away from his foster parents.
Authorities have said they hope to deliver the boy to permanent custody of Rojas in the coming days.
The story of Emmanuel has transfixed Colombia since a Colombian journalist first reported in a 2006 expose book that the child was born to Rojas as the product of a relationship with one of her captors, reportedly a rank-and-file guerrilla named Rigo.
Rojas, however, has not revealed much about Emmanuel's father. She said she does not know whether he is aware of Emmanuel and heard during her captivity that he may have been killed.