After flying eight hours on a crowded plane, “without a provision of pillows or blankets for all passengers”, and going through detailed passport control (“with a lot more questions than other times”), Hugo, 28 years, arrived this Monday in Newark (New Jersey), the third in New York, aware that it was a historic day. “On the plane, in Barajas, everyone commented that it was a special day.” The first, after 20 months, that the United States has opened its air and land borders to non-essential travel (tourism, leisure or family reunions; i.e. anyone not on business or d ‘studies). A time of isolation and estrangement where Hugo and his girlfriend, Clara, 26, who works in Chicago, could only be seen taking a detour. For Mexico.
This Monday at the beginning of the afternoon, the couple was able to meet directly, at the reception of a New York hotel where Clara flew from Chicago. But during the pandemic, the obligatory toll was Mexico. “It made no sense to go to Mexico, when the data on the incidence of the virus there has always been much worse than that of Spain; the same is true for the United States. So now we feel a sense of relief. At last ! sighs Hugo at the hotel reception after meeting Clara.
“We faced the distance with video calls, still waiting for the ban to be lifted” for non-essential travel, they explain as a duo. “In fact, when [desde el Departamento de Estado] they announced it would be early November, I bought a ticket for the 1st; Luckily I was able to change it for another one for today,” explains the young man. However, they both admit, they were lucky, since in the end they saw each other “almost every two months, almost always in Mexico”, except once when Hugo flew to the United States. . Of course, usually with the computer in tow. “It’s just that vacation days weren’t enough, so I worked whole weeks at night from here. If it hadn’t been for teleworking, it would have been impossible”, he explains. The computer is the only thing that has been repeated in this trip, finally free of strange geographical detours.
In Barajas, remember, there were dramatic moments, passengers who were not allowed to board because they did not have the complete vaccination schedule (“the health control is done by the airlines in Madrid, not on arrival”). But they were more optimistic. María Aurora López couldn’t stop crying. He hadn’t slept all night because of his fear of flying and he arrived very early on Monday at Adolfo Suárez-Madrid Barajas airport. She held the plane ticket firmly, as if she was afraid that someone might take it from her, after more than two years of waiting. “Tonight I will finally be able to hug my son again, yesterday was his birthday and for only 24 hours we couldn’t celebrate it together,” she whispered between sobs.
“I haven’t seen my son for three years, he lives in Miami with his father and we planned to see each other before all this broke out,” he recalled, showing a photo of Roberto, who just came from to be 27 years old, on his laptop. María Aurora, 55, is from Venezuela and lives in Tenerife. As soon as he learned he could travel again, he tried to buy plane tickets without saying anything to surprise his son. But he eventually finds out, Roberto laughs on the phone from the other side of the Atlantic, “because he needed help with the vaccination papers and all the permits”. As excited as his mother, he counted the hours to pick her up at the Miami airport. “He didn’t tell me exactly how long he’s going to stay, it doesn’t matter either. I’m going to be with my mom, that’s all I want.”
At eight o’clock in the morning, Terminal 1 in Barajas welcomed the first flight to JFK airport in New York after nearly two years. Among the many blue passports of American tourists, who were able to enter Spain without restrictions – the lack of reciprocity has led to diplomatic friction with EU countries, included en bloc in the entry ban – from time to time it was possible to recognize some Spanish passengers. Among them were Adolfo Rivero and Encarnación Martín, with two carts loaded with suitcases. They have two children in Denver, although they have made no secret that they are the grandchildren they have missed the most in recent months. This Monday marked 600 days since the last time they were together. They were in the United States when the pandemic started, to meet their youngest granddaughter, who was just nine months old. “I’m going to stay as long as possible,” admitted Encarnación, a 59-year-old from Madrid, on Monday. “During these months my eldest son had his first daughter, I need to meet her and act like a grandmother.”
Rocío, the youngest of their three children, was waiting for them in Denver. She is married to a Marine and has lived in the United States for nine years. “Before the pandemic, they came to visit us every two months, because my father worked all his life for an airline,” Rocío commented by telephone. “My mother spent so much time with us that she was almost more the mother than the grandmother of my oldest children,” she explained. “That’s why she is the one who suffered the most from this separation, she was desperate to see them again, she was starting to get depressed.” Her parents’ flight was scheduled to land at ten o’clock in the evening local time. “My children have decided not to sleep, they want to see their grandparents as soon as they get off the plane. I have a bag full of tissues.
Consuelo Neila, 75, was also unwilling to wait any longer. For 10 years, he has alternated a season in Madrid with another in South Carolina, where his son David lives. She is dying to hug her grandchildren, Alejandro and Sofía, and spend Christmas with them again. Although this time she has to travel alone, she is not nervous at all. “For me, it was routine. And it will be again,” he said.