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Adopted Salvador War-Orphans from Michigan Reunited with Family

August 14, 1996

SAN JOSE LAS FLORES, El Salvador (AP) _ On a November day in 1982, at the height of the civil war, Maria Gloria and her infant brother huddled with their mother inside a cave, hiding from government soldiers.

Despite the gunfire, soldiers heard the baby’s cries.

``The soldiers discovered us. They took my mother away. I heard three shots and we never saw her again,″ Maria Gloria Steinhoff, 24, said Tuesday, explaining how she and her brother, now 15, became war orphans.

Maria Gloria and Jose Prospero were taken to an orphanage where they stayed a year until Jean Louise Steinhoff of Michigan adopted them, raising them in the United States.

On Tuesday in this picturesque village, they were reunited with aunts, uncles and their 36-year-old brother, Victor Manuel Rivera, who had enlisted a humanitarian group’s help to search for them.

``I had no idea I did have some family alive,″ Maria Gloria said. ``I always wanted to come and see for myself if there was anybody alive.″

The war between leftist guerrillas and a succession of military-dominated rightist governments started in late 1979 and ended in 1991. At least 175,000 people are believed to have been killed.

Since the war’s end, a group headed by the Rev. Jon Cortina, a Jesuit priest, has investigated 300 cases of missing persons. So far, the Association for the Search has found 12 people in El Salvador, five in Europe and four in the United States _ including Maria Gloria and Jose Prospero.

Jean Louise Steinhoff, who accompanied her children to visit their brother this week, did not say where the family lives in Michigan. They planned to return home today.

Although he was too young to remember El Salvador or his village of Las Vueltas, 50 miles north of San Salvador, Jose Prospero said he was happy to be reunited with his kin.

``We are going to try to keep in touch,″ he said. ``That’s going to be difficult, but we are still going to write each other and call each other once in a while.″

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