Joint vigil honours migrant deaths 

For the last few years, the ‘Healing our Borders Vigil’ has joined the traditional Mexican celebration of the ‘Day of the Dead’ to honour the lives of migrants who have died while trying to cross the border.
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white crosses are propped up against the US/Mexico border wall, which has white handprints painted up each iron slat.

“Zenaida Colmenero Dircio.”
“Presente!”
“Amparo Gonzalez Cifuentes.”
“Presente!”
“Unidentified.”
“Presente!”

Participants at the Healing Our Borders Vigil hold up a cross and call out the name of a migrant who died in the desert of Cochise County, Arizona. Everyone else responds, “Presente!” calling into the presence of the group and the community the memory of the one who died.  The vigil has been happening in Douglas, Arizona, USA, for almost 23 years.  Yet in the last few years, on 1 or 2 November, some of the crosses have crossed into Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, as the vigil has been incorporated into the traditional Mexican celebration of El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.  

On these days—in Mexico and increasingly in the US—families honour and keep alive the memory of those in their family who have died.  Traditionally, 1 November is the day to remember children, and 2 November is the day to honour all others.  Families visit the cemetery and have a celebration at the grave site of their loved ones, bringing favorite foods and drinks, playing music, and displaying pictures, flowers, particularly marigolds, and candles on an ofrenda, or altar.  In Agua Prieta, the city holds a community celebration at the plaza on 2 November. There is food, music, and displays of ofrendas.  

On 1 November 2023, the Healing Our Borders Vigil in Arizona and El Dia de los Muertos in Sonora joined in a common celebration and memorial for those who have died, where participants from both sides of the border gathered at the Migrant Resource Centre in Agua Prieta. Each person took a few crosses and joined in a procession to the border wall.  At the wall, participants lifted a cross, called out the name, joined in saying “Presente!” with everyone, and then placed the cross against the wall.  The procession ended at Avenida 6 where a large cross stands in memory of migrants. “Vivamos siempre como hermanos”—let us always live as brothers—are the words on the crosspiece.  On the vertical piece, it reads “tod@s somos migrantes”—we are all migrants.  At this cross, the people prayed and sang, lit candles and left marigolds in memory of migrants but also in memory of loved ones.

  • Pray for every migrant who has died in the desert, crossing the ocean, or at the hands of criminal or legal authorities.
  • Repent the sins of racism and capitalism that force migrants from their homes.
  • Grieve with the families who grieve for their loved ones.
  • Lift your voice in shouting “Presente!” to keep alive the memories of all those who have died unjustly.
  • Cry especially for the children who are gone, in Mexico and all of Latin America, as a result of wars of colonialism and oppression, and through the slow death of starvation. 

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