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Uvalde victims honored across the country with heartbreaking Dia de los Muertos tributes

Photos, food, water, candles and marigolds adorn the altars, along with unique items associated with the deceased to whom the altar is dedicated.

Uvalde victims honored across the country with heartbreaking Dia de los Muertos tributes
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Rep. Gina Hinojosa

This week, on the occasion of Dia de los Muertos, people around the country are paying heartfelt homage to the 21 victims who lost their lives in the Robb Elementary School massacre on May 24. Building altars in memory of the victims of the Uvalde tragedy has become a national tradition this year, reports TODAY. Among those remembering the victims is Mary Carmen Moreno, the former assistant principal at Bernhard Moos Elementary in Chicago, where students made an installation to honor the memory of the Uvalde victims. "The beauty of these children and the hope that they represent, is such a huge loss," she said.

During the Mexican holiday—generally observed from October 31 to November 2—mourners honor their departed loved ones by presenting ofrendas (offerings) on altars. Photos, food, water, candles and marigolds adorn the altars, along with unique items associated with the deceased to whom the altar is dedicated.



 

"We want the public to be transported to the space of a school and to insist that they remain safe spaces," Moreno said. "We wanted to demonstrate that these are spaces where children should be cared for, where children are loved and where they belong." The altar is set in a classroom, with two angel calaveras—a traditional Dia de los Muertos representation of a human skull—representing the two dead instructors and 19 monarch butterflies representing the deceased students. A whiteboard in the background has an excerpt from Nahuatl poet Mardonio Carballo that reads, "One never leaves completely, there is an invisible thread that unites the butterfly to its mother."

More than 3,000 years ago, the Aztecs and Nahua people in central Mexico created Dia de los Muertos, a celebration that combines indigenous and European customs. The holiday is extremely different from Halloween, according to Cesáreo Moreno, head curator and visual arts director of the National Museum of Mexican Art, where the altar is on display. He says, "It's a day in which Mexican communities gather to remember their loved ones who are no longer with them. They gather in the cemetery all night in some cases and it's a very public beautiful display of memory and family."



 

Similar tributes to the Uvalde school shooting victims appeared across the nation. At their annual Dia de los Muertos festival in Houston, the nonprofit organization Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts honored the memory of the victims through an ofrenda. "We say people's names over and over again so they will not be forgotten," exhibit curator Luis Gavito told KHOU-TV

Meanwhile, Casa Dolores—a museum in Santa Barbara—California, will dedicate an ofrenda to the Uvalde victims up to November 15. Photos and traditional Mexican objects like amaranth chocolate bars are displayed on the altar. The museum also features 21 wooden hearts attached to votive candles with the names of each victim. It is customary in Janitzio, Michoacan, for residents to light votive candles and wait for the sun to rise before women open baskets containing offerings to the dead.



 

As part of a local Dia de los Muertos celebration, families of the Uvalde victims are also getting together this week to help welcome back the souls of their loved ones. "This isn't something that's just going to happen this year," said Christela Mendoza. Her cousins 9-year-old Jacklyn Cazares and 10-year-old Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez were among those who died in the school shooting. "We want to continue year after year and make it this big tradition here in Uvalde."

As part of her ofrenda, Mendoza—who learned about Dia de los Muertos customs from her grandparents as a child—will prepare Jacklyn's favorite food, creamy green enchiladas. "I think that we are trying to honor them because there's nothing else that we can do. So, it's trying to find any and every little moment where we can celebrate them and honor them the way that they deserve," she said. Mendoza expressed gratitude on behalf of herself and her family for this year's altars honoring the victims. "They're doing what we want and it's making sure that nobody forgets who they were and remembering their names," she said.



 

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