• Essays & Articles
  • w: Nelson/Roberto  • p: Margaret E. Ward 

    20 Years Ago Today

    20 Years Ago Today

    I stepped out of the airport in Costa Rica and into a sea of people. From the crowd of strangers, I saw a man and a little girl, about six, walk towards me. Even though I had never met this man before I knew exactly who he was, my long lost father. We embraced for the first time, as my little sister clung to my leg, and after that, it’s all a blur. I don’t remember meeting my brother, my sister, my grandmother, or the numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins that attended the reunion. That day was so emotional and so overwhelming that mind has completely blocked it out. These photos are all I have of that incredible moment, a moment that forever changed my life.

    The strange thing about a day like this is that we are so used to thinking of it as the end of the story. The grand finale of a big Hollywood production where the family reunites and life is finally restored to balance, but for me, it was just beginning. The beginning of a journey that has been more challenging than I ever could have imagined. I’ve had to wrestle with some difficult truths about myself, my family, and my country. I’ve tried to balance two lives, one taken from me as a child, and one that has given me incredible opportunities. And more often than not I’ve felt torn like I’m always having to choose between the people I love.

    I don’t want to make it sound like this has been a bad experience, just the opposite. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have such wonderful family, and friends. However, as I reflect on what this day means to me, I want to be honest about what I am feeling. This is hard. Really, really, hard. Even harder has been traveling this road mostly alone, only being able to share bits and pieces of my life with the people closest to me. I hope that when I’m done my documentary film and an autobiographical novel that I will finally be able to share the whole story.

    In my mind I imaged this day going very differently. I wanted to return to Costa Rica and have a big family reunion, but in for many reasons that is not possible. Like all families, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade this life for the world. I wish I could be there with all of you today. I wish that I was in a different place in my life. I wish we could go back to a simpler time. I wish, I wish, I wish, but wishing does not change our reality. So to my family, all I can say is: I love you, with all my heart, and words cannot express what you mean to me.


    493 words


    Nelson/RobertoSeparated from my family during El Salvador's civil war, by death and adoption, I was reunited with them at the age of 16. I do entrepreneurial art projects that are meaningful, relevant, and push me creatively.

    p: Margaret E. Ward 

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    My name is Nelson de Witt, but I was born Roberto Coto. Separated from my birth family during El Salvador’s civil war, by death and adoption, I was reunited with them at the age of 16.

    I’m a jack of all trades that has done everything from business process design to video production to server administration to film photography. I’ve run, consulted on, and wrote a book about Crowdfunding campaigns. I’ve taught myself everything from Ruby on Rails to narrative story structure.

    What do all these things have in common?

    I’m a skilled problem solver who can tackle complex issues and find solutions that combine art with outcomes.

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