Winnipegger uses social media to find birth father in Colombia
Carlos Urrea shows son Jack Chester the sights around Armenia, Colombia. (Photo: Finding Papá - The Documentary)
Andrea Slobodian, CTV Winnipeg
Published Thursday, January 14, 2016 9:43PM CST
Last Updated Thursday, January 14, 2016 11:01PM CST
Winnipegger Jack Chester last saw his father 27 years ago. They last had contact 24 years ago.
But in a matter of four hours in Armenia, Colombia, he managed to track down his biological father, Carlos Alberto Urrea.
Their story began in Colombia in the 1980s. Chester and his brother Charlie were born in Armenia to a Canadian mother and a Colombian father. The family relocated to Winnipeg, but the father returned to South America when Jack was four. Jack, now 31 years old, has no real memory of him.
They kept in touch with Urrea for a few years; he would call their grandmother’s house. After she passed away, they no longer had each other’s contact information.
Since then, Chester and his mother searched for Urrea, most recently on social media. This summer, his mother found Urrea on Instagram.
Jack sent his father messages on Facebook and Instagram but said Carlos doesn’t know how to use either and did not reply.
Chester tracked him through Instagram location services and decided to fly to Armenia last week with his friend, Sean Skene, a documentary filmmaker.
In what Chester describes as a whirlwind, they enlisted locals to help, including a man who spoke English and Spanish and offered to drive them around. After lunch at a small café near one of the locations Chester found on Instagram, they asked a few people if they knew Urrea. One turned out to be his cousin, who phoned him. He lived nearby and rushed outside.
Chester spotted the man from the photos.
“I just started running,” he said. “I almost got hit by a car on the first street I crossed and ran though the park, yelled his name and he said ‘yes.’ Then I crossed the other street and put out my hand to shake his hand and said ‘I’m your son’ and he then just started smiling and we both embraced in a hug and both started tearing up. It was an emotional moment, so I was very happy.”
Since then, Chester has toured the area with Urrea and met many relatives. He has two half-sisters in Colombia and a half-brother in Maryland.
He observed similarities in the behaviour of Urrea, himself and his brother Charlie, 33, who joined him in Colombia last weekend.
“To have him say I’ve been looking for you as soon as we lost contact, and his whole family to say every year on our birthdays, he cries wondering about us, and on New Year’s, he cries wondering about us, and he’s always thought about us and our mother, makes everything so much better,” Chester told CTV News in a Skype interview January 14.
“This is amazing, I can’t believe it,” added Urrea.
Chester returns to Winnipeg January 18 but plans to keep in touch and schedule future visits with his father and extended family.
The story will be chronicled in a video documentary. Until then, the story is being told on the Finding Papa page on Facebook.