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A Colombian immigrant made St. Louis home. Now his dad does too

Carlos Restrepo (at left) arrived to St. Louis with his dad Luis on December 22, 2021.
Lia Glynias
Carlos Restrepo (at left) arrived to St. Louis with his dad Luis on December 22, 2021.

Carlos Restrepo left his hometown of Medellin, Colombia, when he was 15, moving to St. Louis with his mother and stepfather in 2005. That meant saying goodbye to his father, Luis, which he admits was painful.

"He was always my best friend. And when I came to America, that didn't change," he said.

Now he’s hoping that kind of goodbye won’t happen again for a long time. Just before Christmas, Luis Restrepo finally joined his son in St. Louis. He plans to begin the process of achieving citizenship.

The reunification was a long time in coming, but got a major kickstart when Carlos Restrepo became a citizen almost seven years ago.

“The first thing I did was call my dad that day, it was October 31, 2015. I called him and I was like, ‘I got my citizenship, do you still want to come to the U.S.?’ And he's like, ‘Yes, let's do it,’” Carlos Restrepo recalled. “So that following year, we started filling out the paperwork and trying to get everything in order.”

Restrepo documented the process along the way with “Bienvenido A St. Louis” (which means “Welcome to St. Louis) social media updates.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Carlos Restrepo joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss what it took to get his father here and the local support he found along the way. Luis Restrepo also joined the live discussion.

Carlos Restrepo finally gets to tell his dad: 'Bienvenido a St. Louis'
Carlos Restrepo (at left) and his father, Luis, discussed their journey to St. Louis and the local support they found along the way on Tuesday's talk show.

"I traveled back a few times to see him, and it was just so hard every time you leave Colombia to say goodbye,” Carlos Restrepo explained. "But when we were just on our way out, I was like, ‘Look, we're in the airport. We're never going to have to say goodbye like that anymore.'"

The pair arrived at St. Louis Lambert International Airport days before Christmas — a holiday they didn’t expect to celebrate together this year. After learning Luis Restrepo’s case had been approved, they had assumed Luis Restrepo would emigrate some time in January.

Those plans sped up when Restrepo’s brother-in-law noticed the travel date printed on Luis Restrepo’s approved visa.

“He noticed that it had an expiration date of Dec. 22. Had I not sent it to him, I might not have even seen that part. So I'm very grateful to him,” Carlos Restrepo said. One week later, he was heading to Medellin.

“It felt like it was a miracle,” Luis Restrepo added. “Because so many things had to happen for us to get here.”

Now that he’s here, Luis Restrepo said he enjoys the parks and attractions the region has to offer. For Carlos Restrepo, this new chapter in his life reaffirms his commitment to living and thriving in St. Louis.

“Now it's really, really home. It always felt like my home was split. And although Colombia and Medellin will always be the place where I was born — and I'm really grateful for that — [St. Louis] really feels like my home. Now I have everyone I love here.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Kayla Drake. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.