November 2, celebrated in the Catholic liturgy as “All Souls Day,” is a huge day in the mountains of Mexico. Called “El Día de los Muertos” (“the Day of the Dead”), family members make a real effort to be in their home villages in order to spend all day or all night in the local cemetery where their loved ones are buried.
Families also set up altars in their homes; on these altars they place mementoes of their loved ones, food and drink that their loved ones appreciated, a special bread called “bread of the dead,” and flowers and incense. The most common flower is cempoatxochitl, the "flower of the dead."
This year I was fortunate. The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center in Tlapa (which receives support from Mission Mexico) loaned me a four-wheel-drive truck in order to bring food and supplies to a very poor and isolated village high in the mountains called San Marcos. Most people wouldn’t even try to get to that village on the very muddy and dangerous road. However, I have about thirty years of experience driving these roads, and I was able (with only a few “close calls”) to get to San Marcos.
In San Marcos, one of the most appreciative persons for this assistance was Marcelina. On September 16 of this year, a huge landslide rushed down the mountainside and buried her, her husband, and their four-year-old grandchild in mud. Six of Marcelina’s children were nearby and saw this happen; they rushed to neighbours, and these were able to extricate—alive—Marcelina from the mud. Unfortunately, the lifeless bodies of Marcelina’s husband and her grandchild were found three days later.
Six weeks later, Marcelina is still unable to walk. She lies all day and all night on the floor in Mariano’s house. Mariano, the local “cantor” (singer/pray-er for religious ceremonies) in the village, does what he can to support her and her six children. But it’s not easy. Here is a photo of Marcelina (and the family’s Day of the Dead altar) in Mariano’s house.
I also visited with Panfilo, whose eleven-year-old son happened to be returning from the fields with another nineteen-year-old friend when that same landslide occurred. The two boys were washed away by the slide. Their lifeless bodies were later recovered more than ten kilometers away.
And I had lunch at Doña Simona’s house. Simona lives on the side of the same hill that was partially destroyed by that landslide. Other neighbours have since moved away, since it is still raining hard there and one can even hear (yes—hear!) the earth moving below the surface. But Simona refuses to leave her home. She says that if that means that she will die, so be it. At least she will die where she has lived most of her life and raised her family.
Thank you, donors of Mission Mexico, for making this trip possible and for assisting these wonderful people. God bless you and your loved ones.