San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

'Abuelos y Nietos: Two Generations Together' helps bring the children 'home'

“Abuelos y Nietos: Two Generations Together” tells the inspirational story of families reunited for the first time. Documenting the journey of a group of 14 children who travel 5,000 kilometers from Worthington, Minnesota, in the United States, to San Marcos, Guatemala, the film offers an insight into a generation who are being punished by a broken immigration system.

Today in the United States some 4.5 million U.S. children have at least one undocumented parent. Although they are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as all U.S. citizens, many grow up with the constant fear of familial separation.

U.S.-born Lisa M. Kremer, project coordinator of “Abuelos y Nietos,” decided to organize the trip when a close friend asked her to visit the friend’s family in Guatemala on her behalf.

“That, I think, was the real inspiration for ‘Abuelos y Nietos’ because I felt the strongest sense of guilt, and I was really struck by the injustice of that, and the thought was: The parents can’t go, but most of their children are U.S.-born citizens and they have the same rights and freedoms that I do.”

So, after much planning, preparation and fundraising, and two preparatory trips to Guatemala by Kremer, in July 2013 a group of 10 volunteers took 14 kids to Guatemala. They met not only their grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but also siblings. One boy even saw his mother for the first time in four years.

“I have never experienced such joy and anticipation, and it was an incredible moment for me because I had already met these people, they knew me, and we were able to share that joy.  It was a moment like no other when these children were literally enveloped by their families of origin, by the grandparents and aunt, uncles, cousins, and in two cases, siblings, who had been waiting years to meet these children,” Kremer said.  “There were smiles, tears, and close embraces that had been awaited for too long. It was probably one of the most incredible and defining moments in my life.”  

“I believe firmly that this has been a touchstone in the lives of these children, and it will help to define who they are and what they will do with their lives. Some of them already talk about a future that involves both Guatemala and the U.S., and they take very seriously their opportunity to be a symbol and a spokesperson for so many children like them,” she added.

Acclaimed Guatemalan-U.S. filmmaker Luis Argueta travelled with the group to document their journey and highlight the importance of heritage.

“I’m beginning to realize that this is much larger than one grandchild meeting a grandparent. This is part of an effort to reconstruct collective memory and repair the broken links of knowledge and tradition that are passed from generation to generation. The whole process makes me cry tears of joy and deep sadness,” Argueta said. 

“Abuelos y Nietos” is hoping to make a similar trip next year to reunite another group of U.S.-born citizen children with their grandparents in Guatemala. As well as organizing fundraisers for upcoming trips, the organization continues to provide education and support to immigrant families, especially those who face separation because of their status.

Learn more about the project and visit the documentary’s Kickstarter campaign here.

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