The last time that Puerto Rican Kadisha Montanez saw her daughter Cinthya was in 2009, while she was serving an eight-year sentence in a jail in Georgia, United States. The girl's father, a Mexican who Montanez had married, violated the visitation agreements and snatched the little girl from her grandmother’s guardianship forever. Ten years later, in 2019, the woman was reunited with her daughter in an orphanage in Diriomo, Nicaragua.
Cinthya was five years old the last time she saw her mother, who was serving her sentence for drug trafficking. After that, she disappeared. Montanez’s ex-husband took care of leaving no trace of her whereabouts, despite the fact that he was not the minor’s legal guardian.
Two weeks later, Montanez learned that her daughter was not with her mother. That was the time it took the family to explain what had happened to the girl: her father came to visit her one day, like any other, and never returned. “I fell to my knees. I could not believe it. After a few days, I felt desperate and even more so because I was in prison without being able to do anything”, she recalls.
The mother relates that the subsequent years were very worrying, thinking about her daughters situation, because she had no information at all. It wasn’t until 2013, when she was released from prison, that she was able to start searching for herself, but to no avail. Her ex-husband's relatives were not giving her details and it appeared that they had simply vanished.
Montanez says that Cinthya’s father had threatened her on several occasions, saying that if he took the girl away one day, they should not look for them or report it to the police, otherwise they would “disappear forever.”
At that point he had already carried out the threat, even though the mother did not go to the authorities and decided to search on her own to avoid further consequences, she explains.
Missing… In Nicaragua
In 2015, Cinthya’s father decided to send her to Nicaragua. He had married a Nicaraguan woman from Granada, and decided to send his daughter to that city, with his new mother-in-law and the new couple’s other relatives. But before that, he had made sure to tell the girl that her mother had abandoned her and that “she did not love her”.
Cinthya’s days were marked by physical and psychological violence, the now-adolescent recounts from her home, now back in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. If she describes the time she spent only with her father as “difficult”, the later years were even worse. “They mistreated me. They compared me to my stepbrothers, they beat me for small reasons…”, shares the young woman.
One day that she doesn’t remember well, Cinthya says that she reported the mistreatment she received from her father’s mother-in-law to the Nicaraguan Police. Later, they took her to the Hogar Cristo Obrero in Diriomo, a place that is in charge of housing, caring for and educating girls in the country.
“There were times when it was difficult (to be at the home), because I thought my dad had abandoned me, but aside from that everything was normal,” explains Cinthya.
To avoid further abuse, she decided to ask her father, who was living in Mexico at the time, to let her live in that place and not force her to return to the house in Granada, where her stepmother’s relatives were. She lived at the home for two years, until she met the nun, who prefers to remain anonymous and does not like to share her name.
“Could you tell me something: does it have to do with you?”
By 2019, Kadisha Montanez had not given up hope on finding her daughter. At that time she faced a difficult situation with her current husband: her father-in-law had fallen ill and eventually passed away.
The man had just died in a hospital room, when a strange message entered her Messenger tray, the Facebook messaging application: “It could be coincidence, but also providence from God. Could you tell me something? Does it have to do with you?” said part of the message.
Montanez doubted, it could be a scam like thousands that circulate the internet. But the one who had sent the message, a nun who served in the Hogar Cristo Obrero in Nicaragua, gave more details. They checked the date of birth, physical characteristics, name, surname, age and at the end, the mother asked for a photo: the definitive proof.
Ten years later, in a photo on Messenger, was Cinthya, already 15 years old. The search was over. It was her daughter.
I screamed. The nurses quickly came to see if I was okay and I called my mom and she said maybe it was one of those scam calls and she told me not to get my hopes up because it was going to hurt more. I asked for photos and when they sent them, I saw that it was my daughter. I wanted to run out of the hospital and look for my daughter,” Montanez recalls.
The first thing to do was start the procedures, but Montanez said he could not contain herself and took a flight to Nicaragua to reunite with her daughter. She arrived at night, and the long awaited reunion would be the next day.
The nun told Cinthya that they would go to Managua to run errands that day. She still did not reveal that Cinthya would see with her mother that day, but decided to tell her on the way to managua, where they would meet.
The nun told Cinthya that they would go to Managua to run errands that day, but did not reveal that she would see her mother. She decided to tell her about the reunion, which would be in Managua, on the way there.
“We’re in the car, and she says “We’re going to find your mother.” I was anxious, wanting to vomit. We went around a corner, I saw her and I wanted to run out of the car, hug her,” says Cinthya.
After a series of immigration procedures and several appointments, the two were finally able to return to the United States. Cinthya was reunited with her family and with her brother and her sister, both older than her.
Now she says she feels good. At first it was a little strange for her, because the last time she had seen all of her relatives was when she was five years old and many of them were basically completely unknown to her. But the adaptation process has advanced.
Cinthya says that she gets along with her mom and everyone in her family. She continues her high school studies and assures her that at the moment she is doing well.
“She was fine the first week and then it seems that she realized that she was surrounded by new people. She didn't know anyone and got a bit awkward, but that didn't last long. I told her to always talk to me because I know what she’s going through. Now she is very happy to be with her family and not to be suffering as she had suffered before”, says Montanez.
She hasn’t heard from her father. The last information they received was that he was deported to Mexico, Montanez said, but he has not tried to return and neither have they looked for him. Not after being the cause of ten years of separation between this mother and her daughter.
Cinthya is always in contact with the nuns of the Home, she says. She always sends them messages on social networks to find out how the other young women who live at the shelter are doing. The nun who made the contact possible left Nicaragua the same week. Her job took her to another country, although Montanez says that she is not sure if she returned to her native Puerto Rico or if she is serving in another country in Central America.