Photos posted on Instagram helped Winnipegger Jack Chester reunite with his birth father in Colombia, 27 years after they last saw each other.
The 31-year-old located his father, Carlos Alberto Urrea, in the Colombian city of Armenia within the past week. The reunion came after Chester spotted photos of his dad on social media in August.
"It's been a crazy experience and very fun and very exciting that I finally found him," Chester said in an interview Monday from the South American city.
Chester said he was born in Armenia, Colombia, but his mother, who is Canadian, brought him and his older brother to Winnipeg. The boys' father joined them at one point early on but moved back to Colombia when Chester was four years old.
He said they kept in touch for a while through Chester's grandmother, whose number Urrea phoned to reach them.
"When my grandmother passed away, my father no longer had a number to contact us and we didn't have one to contact him, so we kind of just lost contact at that point," Chester explained.
"That was around my seventh birthday, so it's been 27 years since we've seen him and … 24 years since he talked to my mother last."
Flew to Colombia
Then, over the August long weekend last year, Chester said he saw photos posted by Urrea on Instagram.
"Then using the location of the Instagram picture I found he was in Armenia and I chose to come out here," he said.
Chester flew from Winnipeg to Colombia on Jan. 5-6 with his friend Sean, who is documenting the journey. He said on their first night in Armenia, they met a man in the area who offered to help them.
"We sat down somewhere and had a beer and these people sitting right beside us turned around. One of them spoke English and he started asking us where we're from and why we're here, and Sean and I … explain that we're here so he could document me trying to find my dad and that I was born here," he recalled.
"The guy was excited about this story and said, 'I'd love to help you.'"
Came around the corner
The group first visited a location depicted in his father's Instagram photos, but they couldn't find him. They placed an advertisement in a local newspaper then went to eat at a restaurant.
"Where we were eating was right beside another location of the pictures on Instagram, so I started walking around. Somebody came by and talked to the local who was helping us," Chester recalled.
"Then somebody had phoned my dad because he lived around the corner and next thing we know he walked around the corner and I saw him…. I ran across two streets, yelled out his name, he said, 'Yeah,' and then we hugged and I said, 'I'm your son.'"
Chester said his father told him he had tried to search for him and his brother on Facebook, but both brothers had changed their last names from Urrea to Chester after their mother remarried.
"He does remember me and my older brother and he told me that he's been looking for us ever since we lost contact," he said.
Chester said his brother has since flown to Colombia to be reunited with Urrea as well.
When asked how reconnecting with his father will change his life, Chester said he's still trying to process everything that's happened.
"I got family everywhere, so it might lead to many more trips now," he said.