After flying eight hours on a plane at full throttle, “with no provision for pillows or blankets for all passengers”, and passing a detailed passport control (“with many more questions than other times”), Hugo, 28, He arrived this Monday at the Newark (New Jersey) airport, the third in New York City, aware that it was a historic day. “On the plane, in Barajas, everyone commented on it, that it was a special day.” The first, after 20 months, that the United States opened its air and land borders to non-essential travel (tourism, leisure or family gatherings; that is, all those that are not for business or studies). A period of isolation and estrangement in which Hugo and his girlfriend, Clara, 26, who works in Chicago, could only see themselves taking a detour. For Mexico.
This Monday afternoon, the couple could meet directly, at the reception of a hotel in New York where Clara flew from Chicago. But during the pandemic, the obligatory toll was Mexico: if he did the mandatory two-week quarantine, Hugo could enter the US “There was no point going to Mexico, when the data on the incidence of the virus have always been much worse there than the from Spain; so are those in the US, so the feeling we have now is one of relief. Finally! ”Hugo sighs at the hotel reception after meeting Clara.
“We have coped with the distance with video calls, always hoping that the ban would be lifted” for non-essential travel, they explain in duet. “In fact, when [desde el Departamento de Estado] They announced that it would be “at the beginning of November”, I bought a ticket for the 1st, thank goodness I could change it for another for today “, explains the young man. However, both acknowledge, they have been lucky, since “in the end we have seen each other almost every two months, almost always in Mexico, except once when I flew here,” says Hugo. Of course, usually with the computer in tow. “It’s just that vacation days didn’t work, so I’ve worked whole weeks at night from here. If it weren’t for telecommuting, it would have been impossible ”. The computer is the only thing that was repeated on this trip, free at last from strange geographical detours.
In Barajas, remember, there were dramatic moments, of 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 upon arrival”). But they were more hopeful. María Aurora López couldn’t stop crying. He had not slept all night because of his fear of flying, but he arrived very early this Monday at the Adolfo Suárez-Madrid Barajas Airport. He held the plane ticket tightly, as if afraid that someone might take it from him, 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 could not celebrate it together,” she whispered between sobs.
“I have not seen my son for three years, he lives in Miami with his father and we had planned to see each other before all this broke out,” he recalled while showing a photo of Roberto, who just turned 27, on his mobile. María Aurora, 55, is originally from Venezuela and lives in Tenerife. As soon as he found out that he could travel again, he tried to buy the plane tickets without saying anything to surprise his son. “In the end I found out because I needed help with the vaccination papers and all the permits,” Roberto commented amused by phone from the other side of the Atlantic. Excited like his mother, he counted the hours to go to pick her up at the Miami airport. “He hasn’t told me exactly how long he’s going to stay, it doesn’t matter either. I’m going to be with my mother, that’s all I want ”.
At eight in the morning, Barajas Terminal 1 welcomed the first flight to New York’s JFK airport after almost two years. Among the many blue passports of American tourists, who have been able to enter Spain without restrictions – the lack of reciprocity has motivated diplomatic frictions with the EU countries, included en bloc in the entry ban – from time to time they could be recognized 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 did not hide that it is their grandchildren that they have missed the most in recent months. This Monday marks 600 days since the last time they were together. They were in the United States when the pandemic began, to meet the youngest of their granddaughters, who was only nine months old. “I’m going to stay as long as possible,” recognized this Monday Encarnación, a 59-year-old from Madrid. “In these months my oldest son had his first daughter, I need to meet her and act as 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 has worked his whole life for an airline company,” Rocío commented by phone. “My mother has spent so much time with us that she has been almost more of a mother than a grandmother to my oldest children,” she explained. “That is why she is the one who suffered the most from this separation, she was desperate to see them again, she was getting depression.” His parents’ flight was due to land at 10:00 PM 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 not willing to wait much longer. For 10 years he has alternated a season in Madrid with another in South Carolina, where his son David lives. She can’t wait to hug her grandchildren, Alejandro and Sofía, and spend Christmas with them. Although this time she has to travel alone, she is not nervous at all. “For me this was the routine. And it will be again ”, affirms sure.