It’s not unusual for young people in Yucatán to move abroad for better job opportunities. This means that, often, families are forever fractured.
A Yucatán cultural agency’s program aims to heal the split and the heartbreak.
A group of 16 Yucatecan grandparents were recently treated to a trip to Los Angeles and reunited with migrant family members they hadn’t seen for at least a decade, often longer.
The free trips were made possible by a state-run program called Cabecitas Blanca, referencing the participants’ often white hair.
The Indemaya program was a huge gift to a diaspora that hadn’t had an opportunity to see, much less hug, their family members.
Cabecitas Blanca has been ongoing, starting 18 years ago for Yucatecans over 60 who have been separated from kin for at least 10 years. The most recent trip included residents of Sotuta, Muna, Tunkás, Cenotillo, and Mérida.
They traveled to the Cancún airport with two vans, each with eight travelers plus a representative of Indemaya. The visit will last nearly two months.
Among the lucky travelers were Melchor Ramírez Chan, 79, and his wife Rosalía Lugo, 82, both from Mérida. They had not seen their son Alejandro for 24 years, when he was 22 years old and looking for better pay.
Since settling in California, Alejandro married and had two daughters who never laid eyes on their grandparents until this trip.
Candelaria Domínguez Chi, from Muna, was also on board. She went to meet her three children, two boys and a girl, who left the nest 24 years ago in search of better opportunities.
Since then, she has not seen them in person, only in photos and videos. As excited as she was to finally see them in person, she admitted being a little nervous about the journey. Thinking about them, her eyes moistened.
Not only will she be reunited with her three children, but she will also meet two grandchildren. Hugging them all is what she wants most, she said.
This year alone, 195 older adults will have been reunited with their children in the United States under the Cabecitas Blanca program. Next year, the agency plans to accommodate another 200 residents.