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  • Maria Aida and her sister Norma Janet embrace upon reuniting after 32 years in the state of Veracruz, Nov. 19, 2016.

    Maria Aida and her sister Norma Janet embrace upon reuniting after 32 years in the state of Veracruz, Nov. 19, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 November 2016

Central American mothers are traveling across Mexico in search of their missing children. Sunday they shared a success story.

More than three decades after her family took her for dead after she disappeared while trying to reach the U.S. border, a Guatemalan migrant reunited Sunday with her long-lost sister, while a third sister remains missing.

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After a difficult search, Norma Janet Rodriguez Ordoñez finally found her sister, Malia Aida, who left their home Guatemala 32 years ago with hopes of migrating to the United States and fell out of contact with the family.

The two sisters met again Sunday with the help of migrant justice and human rights organizations in the Mexican state of Veracruz. In tears, they hugged each other while supporters chanted "Si se puede!" or "Yes we can!"

They are still looking for their other sister, Reina Isabel, whose whereabouts has been unknown for two decades after she also left Guatemala en route to the U.S.

Norma Janet is traveling with the 12th Caravan of Mothers of Missing Migrants, a Central American movement traveling through Mexico to meet with other human rights groups and raise awareness about the plight of migrants from the region.

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The Caravan, this time dedicated to the memory of slain Indigenous environmental leader Berta Caceres, has brought together a group of 41 mothers from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua who have decided to retrace the often perilous routes that so many migrants travel in desperation as they flee violence, poverty and lack of opportunity in their home countries.

Activist Ruben Figueroa, a member of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement who helped Norma Janet and Malia Aida reunite, told Mexico’s La Jornada that the groups of mothers are retracing migrants steps along “paths of death,” highlighting how dangerous and even fatal the journey toward the United States can be for vulnerable migrants.

“The mother have come back to Mexico, finding it even worse than before,” he told La Jornada. “Mexican and Central American migrants keep disappearing.” He added that the situation could be on track to get even worse with the election of Donald Trump, who he described as a “xenophobic fascist” set to ramp up a deportation agenda “already launched by Barack Obama.”

The Caravan of Central American mothers kicked off on Nov. 15, crossing into Mexican territory for a cross-country tour through 11 states until Dec. 3. The group is scheduled to leave the state of Veracruz on Monday to visit the states of San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Queretaro, Tlaxcala, Puebla and Mexico City. They already traveled in the states of Chiapas and Tabasco to start of the tour.

Norma Janet’s reunion with her sister Malia Aida is one victory within a long and arduous search. In the 12 years of the annual Caravan and its movement for migrant dignity and justice, activists have identified the whereabouts — dead or alive — of 265 missing migrants.

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