A Minnesota woman who was born in Colombia, abducted as an infant and recently met her birth mother in an emotional reunion was killed in a car accident on Tuesday, according to the state’s highway patrol. Marisa Bocanegra (also known as Ana Maria), a 39-year-old mother of five was a passenger in a minivan driven by a 15-year-old girl, authorities said, that was struck by a tractor trailer at in intersection.
Just last month, Bocanegra shared with Go Minnesota her incredible story of reuniting with her birth mother. Bocanegra was born in Bogota, Colombia, and then kidnapped and illegally put up for adoption. Eventually, a family in Minnesota adopted Bocanegra when she was 6 weeks old and raised her. The portion of her adoption that took place in the U.S. was legal, she said in a four-part video series produced by Go Minnesota that chronicles her remarkable story. She said her upbringing was normal and that she was happy to be part of a loving family. But she grew up in the dark about where she came from. Even the adoption agency in Colombia was unable — or unwilling — to answer questions posed by her adoptive family and later herself. “It wasn’t a good situation,” Bocanegra recalled agency officials telling her family, “and that it’s something we didn’t want to know.”
As she got older, her curiosity about her origin grew to the point where “I needed to know,” she said. Eventually Bocanegra learned the shocking truth: She’d been kidnapped as an infant. Her life came to a “screeching halt” when the reality sank in. Two years ago, Bocanegra hired a private investigator she’d found on Facebook and the investigator was able to track down her mother, Elsy Tueta. The two began talking over Facetime, Apple’s mobile video messaging service, and Bocanegra wanted to travel to Colombia to visit her mother. But she was still considered a “missing child” there and, she said she was told, traveling there could be dangerous in that, legally, authorities might not let her return to the U.S. In October, Bocanegra’s mother flew to Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport where the two, after nearly four decades, were finally reunited.
After the reunion, Bocanegra told Go Minnesota, “I’m beside myself. Tonight I’ve learned much more of my mama’s history, which became my history today. I’m absolutely blown away by her strength and resilience my mother carries inside of her,” adding, “I keep finding myself staring at my mom just taken back by how beautiful my mama’s soul is.”
Bocanegra worked as a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate and also performed interpreting duties for those suffering from hearing loss. She and her mother were set to appear at a church outside Minneapolis on Wednesday night to tell their story before the tragic car accident occurred. Instead, the event turned into a somber celebration of Bocanegra’s life attended by her mother and members of the community.
“I broke into pieces,” a tearful Tueta told the other mourners on hand, according to The Faribault Daily News. “I threw myself on the floor and I just couldn’t believe it. I lost all control. This is very hard. My heart aches. It’s just too much pain to bear.”
In addition to her mother and five children, Bocanegra is survived by a fiance. Watch Part 1 of Go Minnesota’s video series on Bocanegra and click through to YouTube to watch Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of the series.
Read the full story and see their reunion in Part 5 at Go Minnesota.