The day before Halloween my mother asked if I wanted to visit her hometown of Torreon, Coahuila, to celebrate the Day of the Dead. “After 28 years I want to go see my grandmother,” my mother, Blanca, told me. My parents are Jewish and pray for the dead during Yizkor services which correspond with the seasons four times a year. My grandmother always comes to mind in the fall. So we packed our bags and caught a bus in Juarez for a 10-hour bus ride through Mexico.
EL PASO – The Border Network for Human Rights held its eighth annual Day of the Dead Procession along the Cesar E. Chavez border highway on Nov. 1 to remember those who have perished while trying to enter the United States and show their support for comprehensive Immigration Reform. “As the Day of the Dead looms, we take this day to remember the immigrants who unfortunately lost their lives while crossing the border,” said BNHR director Fernando Garcia. “We should never forget them; we will be here honoring them every year because if we forget about them their deaths will be in vain and more people will lose their life.”
The non-profit BNHR, along with nearly 150 El Pasoans of all ages, marched from Bowie High School through Central El Paso and along the border highway that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juarez. Participants carried coffins made out of cardboard, religious crosses, lit candles and banners to express their support for immigration reform. Although the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that grants a path to citizenship to undocumented residents last summer, the bill is currently stalled in the House of Representatives and unlikely to be discussed this year.
EL PASO – An altar with pan dulce, candles, and fruit baskets placed next to photos of the dead honored the victims of violence in Juarez on this year’s Día de Los Muertos remembrance. Early Friday afternoon, Nov. 2, a mother wept as she stared at the photo of her 15-year-old son, murdered in Juarez, Mexico, in drug-related violence. She said her son was shot at his own residence. About 30 other photos of persons who were killed or who suddenly disappeared were displayed on the altar
Laughter and sobs were heard as family members remembered their loved ones.
NOGALES, México – I love contrasts and extremes: the blazing heat of the desert, and the 40 degree drop in temperature at night this time of year. Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is that kind of festival— a study of contrasts and extremes, a party of joy and sorrow, yin and yang. The Nogales cemetery, a place of sadness and grief, is today a place of singing, feasting, and marigolds everywhere. The streets are lined with booths selling bouquets of marigolds, sugar skulls, and pan dulce (sweet bread and pastries). There is the smell of roasted pork on skewers slowly dripping into the fires, and strolling guitarists and accordions are everywhere.
MESILLA, NM – Mesilla Plaza near Las Cruces, New Mexico, observed Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Sunday, October 30, with some 50 altars, each one lovingly assembled with mementos by relatives of the dead to honor and remember their loved ones.
EL PASO – Carefully placing her deceased father’s framed portrait on a round table covered with a Spanish style tablecloth, Lorena Andrade neatly arranged his favorite things such as the sugar cane, bananas, tunas and lemons, a pack of L&M cigarettes and a Coca Cola glass bottle. “With the candles and the scent of the flowers they can find you,” she said. “You put food that they like to eat that way they would want to come back and, you know, sit down and talk and eat together. It’s a way for them to come back to visit.”
Like Lorena many people gather at Mercado Mayapán to celebrate Day of the Dead, known to Latinos as Día de Los Muertos. It’s a day and a month when mourners remember their lost loved ones and place ofrendas (offerings) on altars in remembrance and to welcome the departed.
EL PASO – During this week we have been presented with three opportunities to reflect on our life and the lives of those who came before us. This year, Halloween also marks the day on which the 7 billionth baby (Danica May Camacho) has joined the world (www.7billionandme.org), giving us an opportunity to contextualize our own life amidst the 6,999,999,999 other souls on the planet, and to consider the planet itself. Halloween is no longer a child’s holiday; adults are increasingly enamored of costume parties and pumpkin carving. Whether child or adult, the day is a chance for us to be someone or something we are not, not quite, or not yet. In a way, it is liberating.
EL PASO, Texas — Mientras el olor de incienso llenaba el aire, familiares de los difuntos adornaban altares en su honor con papel picado, flor de cempazuchitl, veladoras y su comida favorita. El Día de los Muertos no pasó desapercibido para cientos de personas de El Paso, quienes entre bailables, antojitos, poesía, música y artesanías, aprovecharon la oportunidad para aprender más detalles de esta antigua tradición en distintos eventos realizados por El Mercado Mayapán y El Rincón Bohemio. “En la cultura latina creemos que el espíritu de esa persona que se fue está a nuestro alrededor y esta es una manera de celebrar su vida y nuestra vida”, dijo María Miranda Maloney coordinadora de Rincón Bohemio. “Es poder pensar en ellos, compartir sus historias, su comida favorita, se trata de el ciclo de la vida y aunque es triste este es su día”. Como es costumbre en México, el Día de los Muertos se celebra el 1 y 2 de Noviembre empezando el primer día con la celebración para los niños difuntos o “Día de los Angelitos” y se conmemora a los adultos el segundo día.