Skip to main content

A celebration turned remembrance for Marisa 'Ana Maria' Bocanegra

Weeks after being reunited with her Colombian birth family, Marisa Bocanegra was killed in a car crash.

It was supposed to be a night of joy and celebration. Just 20 days ago, Marisa Bocanegra met her Colombian mother for the first time since she was abducted as a baby and illegally put up for adoption.

But the night before Marisa had planned on telling her powerful story at Nueva Jerusalem Church in Faribault, the 39-year-old mother was killed in a car crash.

From flowers to balloons, the church was decorated in yellow, blue and red – the colors of the Colombian flag. It's what Marisa wanted.

"Every single moment [with Marisa] was a beautiful moment," said Elsy Tueta, Marisa's mother, through a translator. She wore a white winter jacket Marisa got her to keep warm through the Minnesota winter.

She and her son (Marisa's brother) Juan Pablo have both been staying with Marisa since arriving in Minneapolis on Nov. 10. They had planned to spend the next two months together, making up for 39 years of lost time.

Looking back on his memories with Marisa, Juan Pablo couldn't help but laugh. Just like siblings who've known each other their entire lives, the two shared many jokes and laughs in their short time together.

"[Marisa] was even crying because she was laughing so hard," Juan Pablo said, reflecting on one of his favorite moments. "It was a very happy moment. Very happy."

Juan Pablo was also dressed in clothing Marisa had picked out for him. He wore a black, zip-up hoodie that said "Minnesota" on the front. Under that, he wore a shirt with the state outline, colored in with the Colombian flag colors. It was the same shirt Marisa wore the first time she spoke with GoMN.

You can watch the four-part video series documenting her story here.

Never give up

Other than finally meeting her birth mother, Marisa – whose birth name is Ana Maria – said one of her biggest hopes was to support and inspire others.

She worked as domestic violence and sexual assault advocate, did deaf interpreting services on a freelance basis, and volunteered as an instructor and horse leader with RideAbility, an equine therapy nonprofit.

Marisa told GoMN over the summer, before she had physically met her mom or brother, that she hoped her story would inspire people to never give up – especially Colombian adoptees, like herself, who are searching for their families.

"I want to be the person of support that they can go to," Marisa had said.

And she was.

Two young women traveled more than an hour to attend the ceremony. They had never met Marisa, but were touched by her story of perseverance and inspired to find their own Colombian birth families.

More on the aftermath

Marisa's teenage daughter was also injured in the crash. Family members say she was put into a coma Wednesday, but is in stable condition.

Marisa's family and friends have set up online fundraisers to help with the costs. There's a memorial fund here. There's also a GoFundMe to help Elsy Tueta and Juan Pablo fly back to Colombia here.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-08-14 at 10.24.22 AM

Teen driver crashes into parked payloader; 16-year-old passenger dies

The crash happened early Saturday morning in Waconia.

Screen Shot 2022-08-14 at 10.10.50 AM

Barrage of gunfire injures boy in Brooklyn Park; vehicles, apartments damaged

Police say they recovered evidence that more than 40 rounds were fired in the shooting.

Screen Shot 2022-08-14 at 9.15.07 AM

Minnesota Wild back away from thin blue line T-shirt giveaway

The giveaway backfired when word of it reached social media.

Screen Shot 2022-08-13 at 1.26.13 PM

Workers at Minneapolis Trader Joe's become 2nd in nation to unionize

The vote was certified by the National Labor Relations Board Friday.

ATV, all-terrain vehicle

Driver killed in ATV crash in Brooklyn Park

The crash occurred in Monroe Park Friday night.


Woman killed by suspected drunk-driver in St. Louis County

The crash occurred on Highway 21 in Embarrass Township Friday night.

Jaelyn Campbell

11-year-old girl missing from Mille Lacs County

Jaelyn Campbell was last seen in Onamia.

Screen Shot 2022-08-12 at 1.58.08 PM

2 ejected, 1 killed in crash that closed southbound I-35

The State Patrol says neither were wearing seat belts.

best buy

Best Buy makes job cuts weeks after warning of soft sales

The Richfield retailer has been dealing with a shift in consumer trends.

Screen Shot 2022-08-12 at 10.26.20 PM

Man makes 'vague comments' about Jewish people, smashes own car with club

It happened at a course that was founded as a Jewish country club 100 years ago.

Screen Shot 2022-08-12 at 9.59.07 PM

4 abandoned puppies found in a bucket in Willmar

The puppies were in good health when they were discovered.

Minneapolis police

Suspect of home invasion, murder in Minneapolis arrested in Wisconsin

There have been 57 deaths reported as homicides in Minneapolis this year.


The Abduction of Ana Maria: A 4-part video series

Marisa Bocanegra always knew she was adopted. But during a search to find her birth family, Marisa found out she had actually been abducted at birth.

Video: 39 years after being abducted, Ana Maria meets her mom for the first time

Ana Maria was torn from her family hours after being born. Now she's meeting her mom and brother for the first time.

Untold Impact: The enduring life of Marisa Bocanegra

A mini documentary: Marisa's reunion with her birth family ended in tragedy. But her legacy, through her remarkable willingness to help others, lives on.

Video: Castile's family talks about the 'landmark decision' to bring charges

Philando Castile's family supports the decision to charge the officer Yanez with second-degree manslaughter.