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Guatemala: family reunited after 25 years apart

22-02-2012 Feature

After 25 years separated from her parents and siblings by the armed conflict, Juana Morales was reunited with them in Guatemala City.

In 1987, Juana – who was just eight months old – was at her grandparents' house when an armed raid took place. Her father, Antonio Morales, her mother and her two siblings were forced to flee and had to leave her behind.

They left their community in Ixtahuacan, Huehuetenango, and sought refuge in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Juana spent the next 25 years with her grandparents, not knowing what had become of her family

Juana instigated the search when she found out that the Guatemalan Mutual Support Group could help her to track down her parents. For more than 20 years, the Group has been carrying out searches on behalf of families separated by the armed conflict.  It successfully reunites some 15 families each year. The ICRC has been supporting the Group since 2004 and carries out similar work with three other organizations. In 2011, the ICRC provided support for the reunification of 51 such families in Guatemala.

The search for Juana's family lasted eight months and had a positive outcome. "The investigation took longer than usual because we had so little information to go on. Nevertheless, we were successful," said Enrique Barrera, a Group investigator.

Antonio was overcome with emotion when he saw his baby daughter again, although she was now 25 years old. It was clear that his joy was mingled with sadness.

"Thank God they came to find me," were the first words Antonio uttered, when he was able to talk calmly again. Juana, with a broad smile, could only exclaim in happiness.

"I never lost hope that I would find my parents one day," said Juana, who was still coming to terms with the emotions released by the reunion.


Photos

Juana and her father Antonio, reunited after 25 years apart. 

Juana and her father Antonio, reunited after 25 years apart.
© ICRC

Juana with her grandparents, who raised her after her parents and siblings were forced to flee. 

Juana with her grandparents, who raised her after her parents and siblings were forced to flee.
© ICRC

Juana, overwhelmed by emotion, embraces her parents for the first time in 25 years. 

Juana, overwhelmed by emotion, embraces her parents for the first time in 25 years.
© ICRC