Once a Year, This Rio Grande Festival Reunites Families Separated by the Border

Lead Photo: Jessica Lutz
Jessica Lutz
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Since 2013, the border between Mexico and the United States has disappeared once a year so that families can meet in the middle at the Rio Grande. The event, known as the Voices from Both Sides border festival, is now in its fourth year, and joins the towns of Lajitas, Texas and Paso Lajitas, Mexico. According to Fusion, the event is facilitated by the U.S. border patrol, with only a few Mexican police officers on standby.

The event started in 2013, with people protesting the stricter border rules that made it impossible for them to move between the two cities, as they did before the 2001 terrorist attacks. For some, the festival is a big party, but for others, it’s a chance to see their loved ones once a year. “I’m here visiting family that I don’t ever get to see,” said 19-year-old Dania Elizabeth Blankenburg about the May 21 event. “I don’t have a passport and they live in Mexico–they’re not allowed to come to the U.S.”

Jeff Haislip, who is one of the festival’s co-founders, says the event is a reminder of life before 9/11, adding that in the past, people could cross back and forth on a boat. Now, people have to drive hours to find a meeting point with their loved ones. But once a year, the journey is easy.

Check out Fusion‘s video below and see the touching moments that came out of this year’s festival: