When Naomi Martinez was just 5, her father whisked her away from their home in Costa Rica and told her her mother never wanted to see her again.
But 40 years later, KRQE News 13 reports, Martinez has been reunited with her mother thanks to Facebook and a surprising revelation about her past.
Martinez had severely burned her arm as a child when her father, Curtis Dilas, took her to the United States under the guise of getting medical treatment for the injury. However, Martinez was never taken to a hospital for her burn and was instead told her mother had abandoned her.
“I thought she abandoned me and didn't want me and was glad to have me out of her life,” Martinez told KRQE.
That belief carried on for four decades until Martinez, 45, recently created a Facebook profile for herself. A few months later her siblings were reaching out to her with a very different story. Rather than abandoning her, Martinez learned, her mother had in fact been trying to locate her all this time.
At first, Martinez ignored the messages from her oldest sister. “I kind of had my life already made," she told the U.K. Daily Mail. “I didn't know if I wanted to open that up.”
But when a friend got in touch with the family in Costa Rica and explained the true timeline of events, Martinez decided to respond.
Her siblings put Martinez in touch with her mom, now about to turn 80, and the pair met on Thursday in Albuquerque.
“The first time that I heard my mother's voice was something really emotional for me, because she told me, ‘I still see you as a little girl,’” Martinez said. “I can’t believe it.”
Martinez says she still doesn’t know why her father took her away from Costa Rica and why he never allowed her to reunite with the rest of her family. She says she hasn’t been in touch with him for several years.
Martinez, who has four daughters, said she's planning to introduce them to their grandmother for the first time. And the timing of the visit presents another rare opportunity: Martinez plans to host a joint birthday celebration for her daughter’s 18th birthday and her mother’s 80th.
“I get to see and hold my mom for the first time since I was a little girl,” she said.