Dia de los Muertos

By on November 6, 2011


Dia de los Muertos  by Peg Bowden for arroya.org



Our Samaritan group stops first at the comedor where we see 100 or more migrants lined up for breakfast. I meet “Alberto”, age 12 days. His proud Papa holds him up for me to see. Alberto’s madre is there as well, and is glowing because her husband has just been released from a US detention center after being deported from California. Papa is weeping quietly—for happiness, with relief? I do not know. Alberto yawns and makes squeaky baby noises. Mama fusses over her newborn.


They have everything today. They have their baby and they are together.



New hope for Alberto


I ask where they are heading. They answer, “We will stay in Nogales until Alberto is stronger.” Wise parents. I rummage through the piles of clothing and find a classy Calvin Klein “one-sie” for baby Alberto. There is hope in the eyes of this humble family. And they have nothing in the way of worldly goods. I see them stroll off toward the cemetery and the celebration. Beginnings and endings—that is what this day is all about.



Nogales in a rosy glow


My Samaritan friends and I walk over to the festivities. I buy a sugar skull and a huge bouquet of marigolds and cockscombs to decorate my own altar at home. We dine on the best carne asada I have had in years in a taqueria along the street.



Afterwards, as we walk through US customs and back to our cars, the customs agent stops me and says, “You cannot take the flowers with you, because of possible infestation of destructive insects.”


“What??!!” , I protest. “But the bugs don’t respect the fact that there is a border and a Wall. They’ll just fly over! Keeping my flowers won’t keep Mexican bugs out of the USA.”



flowers and foolishness


The Customs Agent smiles, is actually quite cordial, and agrees. He says, “I’m sorry…it’s not me, it’s the government. It’s a rule.”


So I give him my beautiful marigolds and tell him, “Take these home to your own altar tonight. It is a tradition around here. It is Dia de los Muertos. He smiles, takes my flowers, and walks them over to the trash can.


And I feel the contrasts of the USA, a country I love— the frustration, the disbelief, and the anger about policies that don’t make any sense. From flowers to migrants to detention centers. And I have the freedom to speak out about it.


But I have to say, the world seems a bit saner tonight over yonder in that cemetery with the singing and gentle laughter and music. Viva Mexico.

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