As many of you know, it is not easy for family members to come to the United States for a visit. In fact, it’s almost impossible. I get lots of questions from readers about how to get a visa for a mother, grandfather, brother or sister to come for a visit based on two posts I wrote in 2010:
Since President Obama’s plan to reform the immigration system is top of the news, now is the time to revisit this topic. Immigration reform will make a difference for undocumented Mexican immigrants in the U.S. It will not likely make a difference for those wanting to visit and then return.
In 2006, I was successful in helping Zapotec weavers from Teotitlan del Valle get 10-year visitor’s visas to come to the United States? Why and how did this happen?
All are artists and artisans. They had letters of invitation from United States cultural arts organizations, museums and universities to come and present their work. We had a schedule of events organized and arranged in advance, along with planned arrival and departure dates from the United States. I worked through my local Congressman’s office in the district where I live to help alert the U.S. State Department Embassy in Mexico City, providing the date of the visa interview, Mexican passport number, and complete name of the person applying.
I have also been unsuccessful. In 2010, I tried to help a family attend a sister’s wedding in Santa Ana, California. The entire family planned to attend — a young mother, father and two small children. They were denied, even though I went through the process of alerting the Congressman’s office and providing a letter of invitation. You can read about this in the blog posts above. They paid the application costs for four people.
If you want to pursue getting a family member to visit you in the U.S., I suggest you first find the office of your elected Congressional representative in the city/town where you live and make an appointment for a visit. You must be a U.S. citizen to do this. Ask if they can help you bring your family member to the U.S. for a visit. There are congressional aides who can help with this process. This is your first and best approach.
- It costs over $125 USD for a visa application.
- It costs travel dollars to get to Mexico City for the interview.
- You must make an interview appointment months in advance.
- If your visa application is denied, your application fees are not refunded.
This is a difficult process, something I am not proud to report in the way people are summarily dismissed when consular officials don’t even open and read their documentation. This is a subjective process. It is painful and shameful how separated families can never see each other because of this broken system. I have heard many stories from family members who have not seen their loved ones in ten or twenty years.
Thanksgiving and Frida Kahlo, Hospitals and Recovery
It’s Thanksgiving Day 2014. I’m at Duke Regional Hospital in Durham, North Carolina recovering from knee replacement surgery in a hospital bed that reclines to any position at the touch of a finger. In the past twenty-four hours, Frida Kahlo has often entered my mind.
Mostly because she did such a miraculous job of hiding her pain and her deformity when medicine at the time did not offer sophisticated drugs or surgical techniques. She adorned herself in jewelry and costumes to focus attention to her upper body.
Mostly because I want to look “normal” just like she did. Friends will come to visit today with good cheer, turkey and mashed potatoes in hand. My bandaged leg is under a blanket, my lipstick is applied.
Mostly because having surgery is a solitary experience, even surrounded by flowers, accompanied by Facebook, family and friends who are with me in this virtual world. Frida did not have Facebook and WhatsApp to connect her. She had her imagination and insights.
She reached out to connect by looking in the mirror that still hangs above her recovery bed in Casa Azul, paintbrush and canvas in hand, sketchbook and pencil in hand, to express her feelings about life, death, politics and Diego.
I have my knitting at hand, my dreams rumbling around in my mind and my plans for the new year formulating.
When I left Mexico City last week to return to North Carolina for this surgery, I kept the image of Frida on her bed with me. Her effigy was draped in an indigo shawl reflected in the mirror above.
My knee will heal and the pain will subside. This is more than a hope. It is knowledge that my care team led by Dr. Rhett Hallows, a Duke orthopedic surgeon, is expert. Afterall, I did interview four surgeons in September!
Today, one day after the procedure, I used day-glow pink, duct-taped crutches to walk my first three hundred and one steps down the hospital corridor. The goal was three hundred, but my friend Mary Ann said, go on, you can do one more. So, I did.
I am reclined in my hospital bed ready to welcome visitors. I give thanks for the gift of life as it presents itself each day, each moment a different experience and not as I predicted.
It is a perfect day for giving thanks, to my family and friends, to the strangers who care for me, and to Frida’s memory, a woman who endured hardship and pain. Frida is a model for what it means to transcend, create and live large.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful you are a part of my life.
Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Art History Study Tour, April or July 2015.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Mexico City, Workshops and Retreats
Tagged art, Duke Regional Hospital, Frida Kahlo, knee, medicine, partial knee replacement, Rhett Hallows, surgery, Thanksgiving