Lifestyle & Belief

How an immigrant from Paraguay reunited with her son

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Credit:

Alice Proujansky

Blanca and her son, Guido, play in Corona, Queens.

Blanca is calling her son Guido. He’s 12 years old.

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Blanca doesn’t live across town from Guido, or even in a different state. She’s in New York City and he’s in Paraguay.

Ten years ago, Blanca came to the US, to make money to send back home. She’s worked as a nanny, raising other people’s kids. Moms like this, who live far away from their families, are sometimes called transnational mothers. And there are many in New York City and across the country. A good number work as nannies.

But now, after a decade apart, Guido’s coming to America to reunite with his mother. Blanca knows it’ll be complicated. She worries that Guido will miss his grandmother, who has raised him for the past 10 years.

I met her many times, but the first I saw her nervous was the day before her son’s arrival. So she was mopping her small apartment in Queens and getting his room ready.

Blanca isn’t even sure how tall Guido is now. It’s things like this that she’s missed while supporting his middle-class life, sending a chunk of what she makes back home.

She doesn’t know where he’ll go to school in New York or how they’ll get by. After all, Guido doesn’t speak English and Blanca’s surviving on only $30,000 a year. 

Guido Arrives

I head out with Blanca to meet Guido at the airport. She leaves the house of the little boy she cares for. He’s the same age, 2 years old, that Guido was when Blanca left him back home. In the cab, she remembers why she left Guido in the first place to work in America. She was a nurse in her country. Even with her job supporting her son and mother was a struggle. She knew she’d make more in the States.

When we get to JFK airport, Blanca tells me about her long wait for Guido’s return and why she decided to bring him here. “One day, I had a very bad dream. I just saw Guido sitting in one place, in my house, and crying and crying and crying. And nobody’s there.  So, I said, I have to make the decision.”

The flight’s delayed. “Oh, boy,” she says. “It’s gonna be okay because I know some people who can bring two or three children here and they can do it. They can do it. They can do it. So I can do it.”

She wonders what Guido will think of snow in New York? He’s never seen it before. Will he even recognize his mother? The plane is finally disembarking, but no Guido yet.

“I feel nervous,” she exhales. “I want to see my son.”

Finally, she sees him. “Hey! Hey! Mi muchachote!” Her “big boy” in Spanish.

Blanca tells Guido to put on the jacket she’s brought, but he doesn’t want to put it on. He says it’s not cold. It is their first mother-son struggle in America.

The jacket is too small. Blanca didn’t know his size.

The next day will be a new beginning in America but not an easy one. What lies in store for Guido and Blanca? Will he learn English? A week later, he starts a New York City public school.

Another journey begins.

Alissa Quart's reporting and Alice Proujansky's photography for this story were supported with funding from the Economic Hardship Reporting Projectand the Pulitzer Center. The print version of Alissa Quart's story for The Nation magazine is here: "Who Takes Care of the Nanny's Kids?"

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    Blanca, who left her son in her home country of Paraguay, is the nanny for a 2-year-old child in New York City. “Maybe because I don’t have my son, I take care of children, because I miss him. I have missed his childhood.”

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    Credit:

    Alice Proujansky

    Blanca takes care of a 2-year-old child in New York City. With the money she earns as a nanny in the US, she has been able to send her son to a private school in Paraguay.

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    Credit:

    Alice Proujansky

    Blanca worries about her son's impending arrival. She buys him warm clothes, like a new jacket, but hasn't seen her son in so long that she's not sure of his clothing size.

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    Credit:

    Alice Proujansky

    Blanca waits for her son to arrive at JFK Airport from Paraguay. He took the 14-hour-flight with one of Conde's closest friends.

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    Credit:

    Alice Proujansky

    Blanca hugs her son, Guido, in Corona, Queens.

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    Credit:

    Alice Proujansky

    Blanca sits with her son, Guido, in the house where she works as a nanny. The 2-year-old child she cares for is same age Guido was when she left him with her mother in Paraguay a decade ago.

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    Credit:

    Alice Proujansky

    Blanca's son, Guido, shops for a soccer ball a week after moving to New York City from Paraguay. They had lived apart for a decade. He didn't want to come. He worried about leaving his elderly grandmother alone.

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    Credit:

    Alice Proujansky

    Blanca's son, Guido, comes home to Corona, Queens. He doesn't speak much English yet.

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    Credit:

    Alice Proujansky

    Blanca and Guido laugh with the 2-year old boy she cares for as a nanny.

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