Five decades later, Desamparados woman still searches for lost sisters

Though Sonia Pérez Rojas was too young to really know her baby sisters before they went missing, she continues searching for them more than 50 years later. In 1963, when Ms. Pérez was 8 years old her sisters, Teresita and Janet, disappeared.

One day a man familiar with the family came to the house to take the girls out shopping for clothes. After he left with them, promising to bring the pair back with new dresses, the family never saw Teresita or Janet again.

By then in the care of her aunt, who had taken custody of the children after their mother died, Ms. Pérez said the family desperately tried to find the lost children before learning they were in the care of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia. The family put out missing person ads in La Nación soon after the disappearance, which appeared in a May issue that year. Ms. Pérez said the girls were between 4 and 5 years old at the time.

Though Ms. Pérez repeated that the memories remain hazy, she said the man who took the girls was an old friend or colleague of her aunt’s. Looking back, Ms. Pérez said its possible the man was from the Patronato.

The family later found evidence that one or both were involved with the Patronato, as shown by the limited information given under the file name Folio 33.

At her home in Desamparados, Ms. Pérez keeps a folder of the case’s known details. A thin pile of news clippings, photographs and contact information make up the only knowledge she has of her lost sisters.

Helped by a pair of lawyers, the family went to the Patronato to try to pinpoint the whereabouts of their loved ones. The only information the institution would reveal was the address for a family in California that supposedly adopted the girls.

Still intent on finding her sister, Ms. Pérez has put out ads for her sister in local papers like La Teja and Diario Extra as recently as 2011. She said she did not advertise with media outlets in the United States nor did she try to reach out to the family in California.

Ms. Pérez had previously discussed her situation with former Costa Rican orphan-turned-documentary-filmmaker Jacqueline Arias. Ms. Arias is now making a movie on this subject that deals with Costa Rica’s lost generation of orphaned children that went through the Patronato until the end of the 20th century.

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