September 15th to October 15th 2023, is designated as Hispanic Heritage Month each year.
But for the members of the Childhood Friends of Spanish Harlem/El Barrio Facebook Group, every month is a celebration of Hispanic heritage.
As Hispanic Heritage Month has now come and passed, they are proudly reflecting on the incredible reunions and stories made possible by their online community.
First established in 2010, the Childhood Friends of Spanish Harlem/El Barrio Facebook Group is a digital community where people re-establish connections with old friends and family by posting pictures of the loved ones they’ve lost contact with. They also talk about the music of their culture, share recipes, and work to preserve their traditions and revive those that have been lost. During the pandemic, the membership grew and since then the group has become a popular place to congregate, connect, and discuss shared histories.
“The stories from our childhoods play an important role in connecting with and preserving our culture. We have this digital space where we engage in a variety of activities and discussions with the intention of maintaining and perpetuating our traditions,” said Childhood Friends of Spanish Harlem/El Barrio creator and admin Wanda Santos Ciulla. “Our Facebook Group is an active community free of argument, disagreement, politics, and drama – and I am immensely proud of the many incredible reunions that together we’ve made possible. Members have reunited with siblings, cousins, friends, and neighbors from many years ago. The group even warmed a former teacher’s heart when he learned his old students still talk fondly of him,” she continued.
Below is just a sample of the group’s heartwarming stories:
- A man now in his 50s shared a picture of himself at about three years old with his sister and his father. He spent years trying to track down where his father is buried and hoped the Facebook Group members could help. Within minutes of posting this picture, a group member tagged another group member and a reunion unfolded right in front of everyone online at the time – the man’s brother tagged his sister, and they reconnected almost instantly. Not only did he finally learn where his father is buried, he reunited with his siblings.
- The following day, a similar situation developed – a man reconnected with his aunts and uncles from the neighborhood that had relocated to Puerto Rico.
- Just recently the Facebook Group’s admin, Wanda, posted to ask if anyone remembered Mr. Rosa, her piano teacher from when she was just 12 years old. Immediately several group members responded that they did indeed remember him – he had taught at different public schools. One member said they took clarinet lessons from him. Another member shared that Mr. Rosa was currently living in Florida and still plays music. Eventually, members were able to contact him, and he was touched to discover that in his 80s, his students from decades ago were excited to find out where he was and to see how he was doing. Mr. Rosa is now a member of the group himself.
“National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for us to honor the traditions, stories, and connections that define our community, especially here in El Barrio. That’s why we’re spotlighting many of the extraordinary and rewarding stories of reconnection and closure that our growing digital community has helped make happen. For us, every month is a celebration of our shared background and the stories that bring us together,” Ciulla said.
Click Childhood Friends of Spanish Harlem/El Barrio Facebook Group Spotlights Extraordinary Reunion Stories to join the conversation.
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