It has happened. Finally!
Twenty-eight years after his son Carlos Martinez was born, Lincoln Roache saw him for the first time in person on Friday.
They rushed into each other’s arms, and in a tight embrace, they cried, and cried, and cried. The emotional meeting of the two men, triggered by a Jamaica Observer expose, drew a crowd which watched in awe at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.
Eventually, Lincoln released his grip on his son, raised both hands to the sky, and shouted, “Thank you, God! Thank you, God!”
Lincoln then turned to this reporter and said, “I don’t know how I can thank you for making this happen.” The grateful father acknowledged that had it not been for the Sunday Observer, he probably would have not met his son, who was born in the Dominican Republic in 1995.
Earlier in March, Martinez, speaking through a translator to reach out and communicate with this newspaper, as he speaks only his native Spanish, stated that he had been on a quest to meet his Jamaican father, who was a sailor aboard the now-wrecked cargo ship Pilar del Caribe. Based on information gathered from his mother, Martinez said that his father had journeyed to the Dominican Republic aboard the ship for work.
As fate would have it, Martinez’s younger sister Kimona saw the article on the same day it was published and made contact with the Jamaica Observer. She was elated as she could finally put a face to the brother that her father often spoke about.
The family anxiously made plans to have Martinez visit the island as he had long dreamed of learning more about his Jamaican heritage. However, that plan was not as smooth-sailing as they had expected. Martinez’s first visit to the Jamaican embassy in his home city of Santo Domingo left him disappointed, as he was denied a visitor’s visa.
An appeal was subsequently made in the Sunday Observer by Kimona for the intervention of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith as the family was left confused. One week later, Martinez received his passport with the well-anticipated Jamaican visa inside. He was a ball of excitement.
On Friday, both Lincoln and Kimona stood anxiously as they awaited Martinez’s arrival on the Arajet aircraft on which he travelled. Their faces told an emotional story of longing, as they spoke lovingly of the man they had yet to meet. While they waited, the father and daughter expressed concerns regarding Martinez’s inability to verbally communicate in English. These concerns were eventually shared with an airport employee, who assured the pair that there were bilingual workers ready to assist whenever needed.
The news of Martinez’s arrival quickly spread like wildfire outside the airport’s arrival terminal and curious onlookers could be seen whispering among themselves. A group of men, obviously blown away by Lincoln’s recollection of events, told the Sunday Observer that they planned to stick around to witness the man and his son’s first hug.
It was worth the wait.
And, for Lincoln, this moment was a dream come true.
“I just cannot believe it. I can’t accept that this is real. I talk and think about him all the time, especially whenever I would get something to eat, because I know how that country is. I really didn’t know that this would happen, but I just give God thanks for the Sunday Observer. This is just God’s work. I can’t believe that this happened,” he said.
The man, clad in white, did not hesitate to express gratitude for finally meeting his eldest son. He explained that he had lost contact with Martinez’s mother, who was his wife, when she was pregnant.
“When I left Santo Domingo, his mother was five months pregnant and I knew that the baby was a boy because we went and did an ultrasound. I went to Houston, Texas, and I spent about one month there. But I left the Dominican Republic [with plans] to go back there because I rented a little place and put her,” Lincoln recounted.
He continued, “When I got to the airport, the Santo Domingo flight was delayed so you know mi a work on ship, I wanted to go home, and I saw a Jamaican plane, so I just came on it.
“But I used to contact her through a soldier camp because the lady could speak both English and Spanish. One day I called there and the person who answered the phone said she [the translator] is mortal; in Spanish that means dead. His mother doesn’t speak English so everything got messed up,” Lincoln added.
While he attempted to reconnect with his wife and their unborn child, Lincoln said that these efforts proved futile.
“I thought about him a lot. My brother has some friends in Santo Domingo and he even tried to locate them,” the father said.
Dwelling in the past is, however, not on this family’s agenda.
Kimona, while firmly holding her brother’s hand, told the Sunday Observer that they intend to start the process to have Martinez obtain Jamaican citizenship. With a big grin on her face, she added that Martinez will be feted by his family as they learn more about each other.
“The plan is, he will be here for two weeks, so we want to get all his documents sorted out. The most important one will be the DNA test, and then we will have him see Jamaica, experience our culture which is a part of who he is, and just get to meet everybody that’s in the family all anxiously waiting to meet him,” said Kimona.
She, too, was not spared from the ball of emotion experienced by both her father and brother, as she was seen anxiously moving around outside the arrival terminal while she waited. Worried by the length of time it took for her brother to exit the airport, she approached other passengers, showing a picture of her brother and asking if they had seen him inside the terminal.
That worry was short-lived, and Kimona was moved to tears by the sight of her brother exiting the airport. She told the Sunday Observer that the moment will forever be etched in her memory.
“I wasn’t expecting to cry; I thought I was strong, but this is very emotional. I am so grateful,” Kimona said.
For Martinez, landing on Jamaican soil was a childhood dream. The 28-year-old wore a big grin as he walked, hand in hand with his sister.
“I am very happy. I always knew this day would come. It was not an easy journey from I was a child growing up, but I always believe in God,” he said through his interpreter dad.
While he experienced minor difficulties coming through the airport due to his inability to speak English, Martinez stated that that did rain on his parade.
“The experience was very good because it was my first time on an aeroplane, but immigration was hard because of language barrier, I think. I am just very, very happy that I am here,” Martinez told the Sunday Observer.