AURORA, Ill. (WLS) — A family reunion that has been in the works for decades took place in Aurora on Thursday.
Elderly couples from Mexico were able to visit family members they had not seen for 30 years.
The day was filled with emotional reunions as families gathered at First Presbyterian Church in Aurora.
Tears of joy, long hugs, kisses and wordless expressions of love overwhelmed many because what do you say the first time you see your mother, father, child or grandchild in over 20 or 30 years?
“I have so many things on my mind but the first thing is going to be to hold her. Tell her how much I love her,” said Edwin Garcia, who last saw his mother 25 years ago. “I can’t describe how I really feel. So many things at once.”
“I was supposed to come for five years,” said Jose Montes, who last saw his mother 21 years ago. “You say I’ll be back next year and next year and next year and next year. And look at me now. I’ve been here for 20 years and I still haven’t been back. The last time was in 2001. I came here on January 17. Since then I never go back.
So many pivotal moments in life that should have been shared but were not.
“Especially when I had my first baby, I wished she could be here with me and help me,” said Natividad Pacheco, who last saw her mother 20 years ago.
“Last year I was really sick with COVID-19. I almost died. And the worst thing I was thinking about was my mom — not seeing my mom anymore,” Garcia added.
The reunion between 25 families from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, which is one of the poorest in Mexico, was made possible thanks to a cultural exchange program that facilitates obtaining passports and visas for people over 60 whose undocumented family members live in the United States and who usually would not be able to obtain a tourist visa on their own.
“We brought together over 1,400 people,” said Ivette Moran, along with the First Lady of Oaxaca. “We are so happy. It’s an act of love and it’s a beautiful program.”
It was, no doubt, an incredibly joyous occasion, but for some it was also bittersweet.
“My dad was supposed to be here too, but he died two years ago,” Pacheco said.
“We have a better future here, but we don’t have family here. That’s the hardest part. A better life but at the same time a difficult life,” Garica said.
While in most cases those who arrive will only be here for a few weeks, the advantage is that it doesn’t have to be a one-time visit. Their visas are now extended for a period of ten years, which will now allow their families to reunite as often as they wish.
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