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Baby Hotel: The Gateway to Guatemalan Adoption

Jacob Wheeler
October 9, 2006

The Marriott Hotel in Guatemala City's wealthy Zona 9 isn't really Central America. But it isn't the United States either. It's a kind of no man's land between countries, between cultures, sprawled out on the highway dividing rich and poor, where thousands of impoverished Guatemalan children make the final step in their journeys to become adopted by Americans. Most of them don't make a step at all, of course, because they're infants. Instead they are passed from a Guatemalan foster mother, or an attorney, into the trembling arms of a teary-eyed couple from El Norte who has been waiting for this moment, often not so patiently, for months or years.

In Guatemala City, in venues like the Marriott Hotel, or the Radisson, or the Camino Real right next to the American Embassy, this strange if not humorous baby handoff in a busy lobby is now an everyday occurrence. Guatemala holds the distinction of being the only Latin American country — the only country in the whole Western Hemisphere — that doesn't recognize the United Nations Hague treaty of 1989 that pushes for stringent state control over international adoptions. Adoptions here fall under the notary system, which means they are essentially privatized and run by lawyers and judges who have plenty to choose from when it comes to impoverished, malnourished, and sometimes abandoned or stolen babies....

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