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Loved ones re-united during Mexican independence Day festival


Victor Ramirez-Nava and his mother Lorenzo Nava-Garay were reunited by Amexcan after being apart for eight years.


By Tyler Stocks
Staff Writer

Monday, September 16, 2019

For the last eight years Victor Ramirez-Nava has communicated with his mother only by phone. His daughter, now 17, last saw her grandmother 16 years ago when the family traveled to Hidalgo, Mexico.

On Sunday afternoon, Ramirez-Nava and his mother, Lorenzo Nava-Garay, were reunited during the Mexico Independence Day celebration that took place at the Greenville Town Common.

Nava-Garay was one of dozens of grandparents who sat in metal chairs on the Greenville Toyota Amphitheater stage, surrounded by loved ones who cried happy tears.

The reunions were made possible by the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN), a local Hispanic advocacy group.

“It is very tiring, but first I want to thank AMEXCAN and the work they’ve done,” Nava-Garay said. “I was able to reunite with my sons and I’m just happy to be with my family.”

Ramirez-Nava said said the eight-year separation has been difficult.

“I just talked to her on the phone but it’s just not the same,” he said. “I was very happy to see her here this morning. … I don’t have any words to describe the enjoyment I have today to see her here.”

Ramirez-Nava’s daughter, Johanna Ramirez, said the seeing her grandmother after all these years is surreal.

“It’s just really exciting and I’ve been waiting a long time for this, so it’s pretty nice,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez-Nava said he is thankful for groups like AMEXCAN that advocate for Hispanic families to help them stay connected with their loved ones.

“This is especially important so (my mother) can meet my kids again, really, because she doesn’t know them,” Ramirez-Nava said.

“I think this is great and I hope they keep doing it because a lot of people here need to be reunited with their families,” he said. “I just thank God that there’s people out there that want to lay down their life basically for helping other people.”

The program at AMEXCAN responsible for helping to reunite families is known as Almas Mexicanas. It has been in operation for the last two years, according to coordinator Maritza Mata.

“We have launched our program, Almas Mexicanas, where we work with all of Mexico to reunite grandparents that have not been able to see their children in the United States due to immigration,” Mata said, noting that some families have not had a face-to-face visit in 20 years.

“We apply directly to the U.S. Embassy to receive a visa for the grandparents and they’re able to … visit their children here for a period of six months,” Mata said. The visas are good for 10 years, she said.

“Our purpose is to reunite the families — and their souls in a way — after so many years,” Mata said.

In addition to reuniting families, Sunday’s event brought together the community to celebrate Mexican heritage.

The event featured food vendors, dancing and singing and the sunny weather made for a pleasant afternoon.

Martha Santiago, who has lived in Greenville for 19 years, was one of the dancers who performed.

“This helps me remember my culture and I just want to represent my homeland. That’s why I get excited,” Santiago said.

Santiago is from Jalisco, Mexico.

Mata said Sunday’s event allows Greenville to be more inclusive and celebrate the rich diversity of the community.

“It’s all about being inclusive and sharing a little bit about what we all have to offer,” Mata said.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @Tylerstocks1987.