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El Dia de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living
Unformatted Document Text:  15 Roughly one-third of all bodies found along the border are unidentified due to the fact that Central American and other non-Mexican migrants typically travel without identification, hoping to pass for Mexican and thus avoid deportation to their native countries, if captured by the Border Patrol. At present, the nameless corpses are mechanically inhumed in vacant tracts of land near the border and the families of the dead have no way of knowing the destiny of their absent relatives. In response to this situation, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, together with St. Joseph and St. Anthony’s parishes in Holtville, California, sponsored a Day of the Dead event in the Terrace Park Cemetery on November 1, 2001. 51 In a barren lot behind the main cemetery, the cadavers of more than 200 unidentified migrants found in the nearby desert lay buried beneath stark mounds of earth, generically labeled “John Doe” or “Jane Doe.” In an implicit condemnation of Operation Gatekeeper, this event combined a traditional, village-style Day of the Dead procession with a political call for bi-national efforts to identify the bodies via DNA testing. At the entrance to the cemetery was a large sign that read, “This Day of the Dead, 600 families don’t even know whether or not they have a migrant to cry for.” The words “don’t even” encouraged empathy with the migrants’ families, appealing to a collective sense of right and wrong. They reminded readers that, while US residents can have peace of mind in mourning the loss of loved ones, families of migrants are left to wonder, forever, about the fate of theirs. Organizers also distributed buttons reading, “Would you walk across mountains and deserts for a job? 1,700 migrants did and died.” Once again, the message urged readers to identify with migrants and compare their differing life circumstances. The underlying discourse of the event 51 I attended this event as a participant observer.

Authors: Marchi, Regina Miriam.
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15
Roughly one-third of all bodies found along the border are unidentified due to the fact
that Central American and other non-Mexican migrants typically travel without identification,
hoping to pass for Mexican and thus avoid deportation to their native countries, if captured by the
Border Patrol. At present, the nameless corpses are mechanically inhumed in vacant tracts of
land near the border and the families of the dead have no way of knowing the destiny of their
absent relatives. In response to this situation, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation,
together with St. Joseph and St. Anthony’s parishes in Holtville, California, sponsored a Day of
the Dead event in the Terrace Park Cemetery on November 1, 2001.
51
In a barren lot behind the
main cemetery, the cadavers of more than 200 unidentified migrants found in the nearby desert
lay buried beneath stark mounds of earth, generically labeled “John Doe” or “Jane Doe.” In an
implicit condemnation of Operation Gatekeeper, this event combined a traditional, village-style
Day of the Dead procession with a political call for bi-national efforts to identify the bodies via
DNA testing.
At the entrance to the cemetery was a large sign that read, “This Day of the Dead, 600
families don’t even know whether or not they have a migrant to cry for.” The words “don’t
even” encouraged empathy with the migrants’ families, appealing to a collective sense of right
and wrong. They reminded readers that, while US residents can have peace of mind in mourning
the loss of loved ones, families of migrants are left to wonder, forever, about the fate of theirs.
Organizers also distributed buttons reading, “Would you walk across mountains and deserts for a
job? 1,700 migrants did and died.” Once again, the message urged readers to identify with
migrants and compare their differing life circumstances. The underlying discourse of the event
51
I attended this event as a participant observer.


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