On his last Friday in the United States, Francisco Arellano spent the evening the same way he had spent many evenings for over 30 years: surrounded by his family, drinking some tequila and eating pambazos.
After he bought his home in Brighton Park, it turned into the family hub where everyone gathered for special occasions and holidays. The family is so big that he set up a white tarp canopy in the backyard and connected it to the garage to ensure that the space was large enough for the gatherings.
But the last reunion was different. The usual laughter and chatter were accompanied by tears and hugs as loved ones said goodbye to Arellano and his wife, Teresa Ruiz de Arellano.
The two returned to their beloved Michoacan state in Mexico permanently after living in Chicago for over 30 years. They had crossed the border to the U.S. without permission and could not return — not even when each of their fathers passed away — for fear of losing the opportunity to give their children a fruitful future.
“Despite the pain of being away from my mother and losing my father, it was all worth it,” Arellano, now 55, said in Spanish on a phone call from his hometown, Maravatio, in Michoacan. He is referring to the distance from loved ones, the struggles to settle down and find a good job, living in the shadows for fear of arrest and deportation, sacrificing to save as much money as possible, and “everything that we had to go through to get to this day.”
Arellano said he wanted to make sure he returned to Mexico while still healthy and young enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Thanks to his arduous work — which won’t provide luxury, but enough to get by comfortably — he was able to do that.