In talking to some adults in the Latino community, it seems that a number of them have also come from a reunited family and they can easily recognize and identify with the feelings of the different members and the impact this situation has had in their lives. One of these individuals told me that in her generation and in her community, back home in Central America, it was not uncommon for a newborn child from a large family to be given away to a willing grandmother with the blessing of both parents. As she described it, this child was seen as a generous gift of light and happiness into the life of a lonely older woman that had nobody left to care for. Many times this was a situation of poverty, or scarce support that might induce a mother to give away her child to a willing relative. It was almost like an informal adoption. This would always be within the confines of the family and would thus insure the possibility of a future contact between the biological mother and the child. To go out of the family, to give away a child for adoption to a stranger, appears as a cruel and an awful proposition to most young Latino women I have come in contact in my work. Therefore, this appears to seldom be an option for most pregnant Latino teenagers, who from their reaction at the suggestion of such an idea seemingly perceive formal adoption as an almost bigger moral failure than abortion.
As the civil war in Central America was at its height in the middle eighties, enough time has gone by that we find children from reunited immigrant families who are now parents themselves. Presenting the workshop about reunification in the schools, to the reunited families within our students, I would often come face to face with these adults. It is clearly very moving for them to hear about the experience of reunification for the first time, presented right in front of them in power point slides containing the typical feelings both parents and children express. It is a welcome validation to their feelings and experience, as well as a validation for me hearing them say things like: “That was exactly how I felt and in fact, I still feel with my mother or father” and “I promised myself I would never separate from my children no matter what the circumstances.”
Interestingly, when teachers receive a presentation about the reunification experience I have found some very attentive African American teachers that say at the end: “You have described exactly my life experience, when my mother left us with our grandmother in the south to come to the north, to find the work she could not find there. Many years passed before she brought us to live with her and the loss of the bonding with her was hurtfully palpable.” The feelings were exactly the same: “we felt our real mother was our grandmother and our mother was really a stranger.” They were describing the Great Migration, when from 1915 to 1970; six million African Americans fled the south to come to the north, like immigrants within their own land. (Wilkerson, 2010). The same is also true for audiences that include immigrants from other regions of the world such as Asia, Africa etc. They too have lived this experience, or know immigrant families that are going through the same difficulties in “mending the lost relationships” right now. Furthermore, in fact, a beautifully done documentary that won many awards as an investigative documentary in the 2010 Los Angeles and the San Francisco International Film Festival, among others, is a surprising example of the same experience: this time with migrant workers families inside China. Director Lixin Fan, a Canadian Chinese film maker, narrated the story of the long and hard journey home, on the Chinese New Year, of small village parents who immigrated to the big industrial urban centers to work in sub-human conditions, in order to provide for their children left with grandmother. When they arrive home, they find children who are no longer close to them and resent their decision to leave them, rebelling in the way that would hurt them the most: by refusing to study which is their parent’s dream for a better life for them. It is an amazing carbon copy of the same story in so many Latino immigrant families’ homes in the USA who are now reunited after a long separation. (Fan, 2009).