By Seth Mauzy
Courtney Smith/Arizona Daily Wildcat
A member of No Más Muertes, an organization that works to end deaths of migrants in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands, holds crosses with the names of migrants who have died.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 7, 2005
More than 100 march, carry crosses to mission
Tucsonans observed Dia de los Muertos on Saturday, honoring those who have died during the dangerous trek across the Mexican-American border, as part of a weekend full of celebration and remembrance.
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebration that traces its roots back thousands of years to Aztec and other Meso-American civilizations, which celebrated death as an awakening to another stage of life.
This tradition was blended with the Catholic holidays All Saints Day, Nov. 1, and All Souls Day, Nov. 2, into a unique celebration observed throughout Mexico and the American Southwest, according to MexOnline.com.
The All Souls Procession in downtown Tucson is a vibrant, celebratory counterpoint to Saturday’s somber Day of the Dead event.
Saturday’s event was hosted by a number of local human rights and border activist groups, including Coalición de los Derechos Humanos, Healing Our Borders and No More Deaths.
More than 100 men, women and children arrived at Saint John’s Church in South Tucson early Saturday morning to take up crosses bearing the names of those that have died this year crossing the Mexican-American border, and carry them eight miles to the San Xavier Mission.
Kat Rodriguez, coordinating organizer for Derechos Humanos and the Day of the Dead event, said the walk is about remembering the dead and is not attached to any particular religion or political affiliation.
“Whatever side of the ‘immigration debate,’ as they call it, you are on, today is a day to honor the dead,” Rodriguez said. “And these are real people that deserve to be honored.”
More than 280 small white crosses, many marked simply “unknown,” were made by volunteers from the sponsoring groups. Many people took up to two or three to ensure every name was carried. Others carried Mexican and American flags and signs reading “Humanitarian aid is never a crime.”
These signs were provided by No More Deaths, a coalition of border activist and human rights organizations, to show support for two of the group’s members who were arrested earlier this year while trying to bring three undocumented migrants to medical attention in Tucson.
James Martin, a philosophy and Latin American studies major and one of the founders of a new UA student chapter of No More Deaths, was one of a few UA students who came out for the event despite it being the morning of Homecoming.
“I’m glad that No More Deaths is a part of this, because it is primarily a younger crowd,” said Martin, who was walking in the event for the first time.
Since organizing the UA chapter about two weeks ago, more than 50 students have signed up for group’s Listserv, Martin said.
After handing out the crosses, Kat Rodriguez offered a blessing in both English and Spanish to the group.
“These are not crosses of wood but of flesh and bone,” Rodriguez said. “These are the true heroes of the world who have left their homes and families to take a perilous journey and give their lives. We walk as they have walked.”
The group then began their slow and silent pilgrimage to the mission, walking single file in a solemn procession that gathered honks of support from passing cars.
The procession headed south toward the Pima Community College Desert Vista Campus where they paused briefly for water and restrooms before continuing the final mile to the mission.
At 1 p.m., after nearly five hours of walking, the procession entered the courtyard at San Xavier and proceeded to gather around a ring in front of the mission, where more than 100 crosses from the last five years were awaiting the addition of this year’s names.
“We have placed over 500 crosses here since we began the pilgrimage,” Rodriguez said, adding they had lost many to the ravages of time and the hands of tourists.
Once assembled, organizers took turns reading through the list of names, including the hundreds listed desconocido or desconocida, or “unknown,” with the group intoning the word “presente” after each name was read.
One by one, as the names were read, the participants took turns approaching the circle and carefully stepped among the crosses to lay their crosses among the others.
Once all the names were read and all the crosses were in the ring, Father Steve Barnufsky, pastor of San Xavier Mission, circled the ring and blessed the crosses, followed by a bilingual reading of “Prayer for the Migrant.”
Afterward, organizers provided vans to shuttle participants back to their vehicles.