Guatemala trip subject of film
WORTHINGTON — In July, an entourage of 27 people — 14 youths, 10 chaperones and a film crew of three — embarked on a journey to Guatemala. The purpose of the trip was to unite the Worthington children — all American citizens of Guatemalan ancestry — with their grandparents and other relatives who still live in the Central American country.
The undertaking, called Abuelos y Nietos Juntos (Grandparents and Grandchildren Together), was filmed by Luis Argueta, a Guatemalan-American filmmaker. Now, the footage he and his crew captured is being turned into a documentary, and a Kickstarter site was recently launched to help fund the project.
Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website through which people seek financial support for their independent projects. Project creators set a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. It is an all-or-nothing proposition; projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money.
The goal for “Abuelos y Nietos Juntos: Two Generations Together” film is $38,000, with a deadline of Nov. 7.
On the Kickstarter site, Argueta says that the film “embodies the universal question: where do I come from? We are always looking through our family history to connect with our roots, to know who we are and to define ourselves. I believe that this compelling story will engage audiences, encourage dialogue about the importance of family unity and inspire others to replicate the initiative of bringing grandparents and grandchildren together.
“A small group of committed individuals in a rural Minnesota town has shown that it is possible, anywhere in the country, to reunite many of the 4.5 million U.S. citizen children with their extended families from which they have been kept separated by a broken immigration system.”
On Friday, the children who went on the trip gathered at the St. Mary’s Church Rectory in Worthington to talk a bit about their experiences in Guatemala. With dark hair, skin and eyes, their ancestry is evident, but these are American children who talk without accents, lamenting the lack of a Burger King in Guatemala and the anticipation of attending a matinee of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” later in the afternoon.
For almost every one of them, the highlight of the trip was “meeting my grandparents,” even though their relatives living in Guatemala were virtual strangers when they arrived. But by the end of the stay, they were treasured loved ones, and many tears were shed upon departure.
Two of the children met siblings for the first time.
“I loved my brother’s store,” said Eugenio, 10. “It was my first time meeting him. His name is Branden —actually his real name is too long, so I just call him Branden. He’s 15, born in Guatemala, and has been (taken care of) by my aunt and uncle. He has this little store, and the thing I liked to do best was to work in the shop with him.”
The Worthington delegation was welcome warmly by the Guatemalan government, and their stay included a visit to the presidential palace, where the kids dined on hot dogs, French fries and cupcakes.
“The chaperones were all sitting at a table, and the kids were at their own table and got their food first,” explained Lisa Kremer, one of the organizers of the trip. “We thought, ‘Oh good, hot dogs and French fries,’ but we were served these little tart things with salmon and some sort of chips. For dessert, they brought chocolate cupcakes for the kids, and we were served a traditional dessert, a banana that had some sort of brown stuff inside. We thought it was chocolate, but it turned out to be beans. … We ate a lot of beans. We were coveting their food.”
The Guatemalan diet, which also includes a lot of soups according to one of the young travelers, was an adjustment for the kids, as were many other aspects of the culture, even though they have been brought up by Guatemalan-born parents. Bathing seemed to be a particularly startling proposition to the American kids, with warm water being an uncertain factor in the shower and outdoor communal baths.
The poverty of the people they encountered also made an impression. As they took their first bus ride through Guatemala City, the children remarked about the poor people they saw on the street, and expressed their wish to go back and help them in some way.
“I knew there would be poor people, but I didn’t know it would look like this,” said one of the children.
But many of the youngsters were also impressed by the beauty of the country.
“At night, there were more stars up in the sky than there are here,” noted Jessica.
Having a film crew along was a bit disconcerting for the young travelers.
“I noticed that it must be how other people feel when somebody is staring at them,” said Amy.
“It’s like if you’re famous, but now I know that I don’t want to be famous,” added her sister, Jessica.
But the children realize that the story of meeting their grandparents is important and needed to be filmed.
“So they can see how much we care about our families,” said Luis.
“Because families shouldn’t be separated,” finished Lilia.
When funding is secured and the film is finally finished, a premiere is planned in Worthington.
“This movie isn’t just about the trip or just about the kids,” explained Kremer. “Luis has spent a lot of time with the families here and the families in Guatemala. It’s really going to be a story about the families and what they’ve had to deal with by being separated.”
The first trip deemed an overwhelming success, Abuelos y Nietos Juntos is moving forward with plans for more family unification trips as well as educating people on immigration issues and supporting immigrant families who are separated or are facing separation. The faith-based group is applying for 501(c) status as a non-profit organization. An organizational meeting will be at 3 p.m. Sunday in the basement of the St. Mary’s Rectory. Anyone interested in promoting immigration reform and family unification is welcome.
For more information on the Kickstarter campaign or to view a trailer for the movie, go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1740790953/abuelos-y-nietos-juntos-two-generations-together.