Fabio and Milva Alvarado embody the American Dream. Fabio, 83, moved to New York from Bogota, Columbia in 1953. Milva, 82, left her farm in Cuba in 1952 to escape the rising political conflict and start a new life in New York. The Big Apple holds a special place in Fabio and Milva’s hearts. It’s where the two met, got married, started a family and ultimately realized their dreams as American citizens. On May 13th, Wish of a Lifetime honored those memories and fulfilled this couple’s longtime Wish to revisit New York again after over 50 years.
Fabio and Milva are two resilient immigrants with a remarkable story. “New York is the city where I started my life,” Fabio says, “At 21 with $50 in my pocket I arrived and for the next 7 years I matured, worked hard, served in the army and found love.” Fabio and Milva would often cross paths, as Milva’s sister worked at the same factory as Fabio. After many months, Fabio built up the courage to approach Milva and the two quickly fell in love. Shortly after, Fabio was drafted into the Army. Knowing that he would soon have to report to duty, Fabio didn’t waste any time and proposed to Milva. After three years of service, Fabio returned to New York and the two began their lives together.
“Some of the best times in my life were spent in that city and it was a first of many things for me,” Fabio said, “First time on my own, in a strange country, different language, first time seeing snow, tall buildings, riding on a plane, first kiss, first date. It was where I married and where my daughters were born.”
Fabio, Milva and their two daughters eventually relocated to Georgia where they currently reside. In his later years, Fabio developed spinal stenosis. After an anterior cervical fusion surgery in 2014, Fabio almost died. This traumatizing experience was a wake-up call for the Alvarado family. With help from his daughters, Fabio has been documenting the stories of Milva and himself. Remembering all the happy memories from his time in New York coupled with his second lease on life inspired his Wish.
Fabio thought of this trip as a second honeymoon for Milva and him. “After 60 years my love for this woman is one of the things in my life that has remained consistent,” Fabio says, “Time takes many things away but it has not taken that. To visit the places where we walked, the Church where we married will be our trip down memory lane, for the last time.”
On May 13th, Wish of a Lifetime sent Fabio, Milva, and their daughters Patricia and Yolanda to New York City for the first time in 50 years. Their first stop was the International House, where Fabio spent his first night in the United States in 1953. Fabio and Milva reminisced and celebrated some of the most important years of their lives as they visited the Rockefeller Center, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Grand Central Station, and the first apartment they lived in together. Towards the end of the trip, Fabio said, “The New York experience would not be complete without a subway ride!” and the family took a subway ride to China Town for lunch.
The memories created on this trip will stay with Fabio, Milva and their daughters for a lifetime. Fabio believes his story can serve an even greater purpose for those around him. “We too were young…we had dreams and just because we are in our eighties does not mean that we do not have a past that we can share,” Fabio says, “It (our story) might serve as a reminder to the younger generation to listen to their parent’s and grandparent’s stories. There is a lesson to be learned from their lives, but when they are gone, their story goes with them.”
Special thanks to Jayne Wexler for photographing this special experience.