Things That Matter

Mexican Communities Around The Country Are Honoring El Paso Victims With Día De Muertos Ofrendas

Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead is November 2, and ofrendas are popping up all around the country to honor the El Paso shooting victims. The annual Mexican tradition is a time of reflection and celebration of lives lost. Each year ofrendas or altars are created with tokens, photos, and sentimental mementos of those who passed.

This year ofrendas all over the country will commemorate the 22 El Paso shooting victims who were killed in a targeted attack against the Latinx community on August 3, 2019. The incident occurred when a 21-year-old white male drove 11 hours to El Paso, Texas to shoot “Hispanics.” 

The man killed 22 and injured 26 patrons of a Walmart, 20 minutes after posting a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto to a social media website used by white supremacists. The shooter talked of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The rhetoric was not unfamiliar to anyone who has tuned into President Trump’s rallies where he once referred to Mexicans as rapists. 

The Latinx community is still healing and Dia de Muertos is a great opportunity to begin suturing up the wounds. 

The Mexican Cultural Insitute in Washington D.C.

The Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. will have an altar for El Paso victims during their Dia de Muertos celebration on November 2. The event will also include dance, music, food, and performances. 

Mexican artist Enrique Quiroz will create the altar that will honor the 22 people who were killed in the gruesome mass shooting. According to DCist, the altar will also include tributes to prominent Mexican icons that died in 2019 like humanitarian León Portilla, singer José José, and artist Francisco Toledo. 

The Mexic-Arte Museum in Texas altar will honor El Paso victims.

 The Mexic-Arte Museum has encouraged local residents to contribute photos, messages, and sentimental items to their altar. It has been on display since September 13 and will remain until November 24. Meanwhile, the museum puts on the city’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead celebration on October 26. 

“The violence targeted our community,” Mario Villanueva, the museum’s marketing and events associate, told the Statesman. “As Mexic-Arte Museum, a safe space that amplifies Mexican American and Latino culture, it’s our duty to let the community know that we hear your pain.”

The ofrenda entitled “Ofrenda a Nuestra Comunidad Internacional de El Paso,” has had a positive response in the area with many offering to participate and provide items. 

“Some of them were hurting,” Villanueva said. “They just want to help in any way possible.”

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago

“Day of the Dead Xicágo is just getting started and more than 90 ofrendas are set up! This altar is fondly dedicated to Felipe Ruiz and Andrea Sebastian Arzate, who are remembered for being loving and caring grandparents. Come see more altars created by people of all walks of life and share in their heartfelt stories,” the museum wrote on Instagram. 

At the “Love Never Dies Ball,” on November 2, the National Museum’s ofrendas will feature El Paso victims as well children separated at the border and those who have died in ICE custody. The Chicago Latinx community has been outspoken about the Trump administration’s immigration policies. 

“The motives behind the El Paso massacre were clearly directed at Latinos, and they were rooted in the damaging rhetoric that came into the national spotlight when Donald Trump began using words like ‘invasion’ and ‘drug dealers and rapists’ to describe immigrants crossing the southern border,” the Latino Policy Forum, a Chicago advocacy organization, said in an August statement. 

Hip Latina reports that other Day of the Dead celebrations in Texas will take place at Houston Community College, University of Texas at El Paso and local churches. Each will honor the victims of the El Paso shooting. 

The El Paso Walmart will open its doors for a memorial. 

The El Paso Walmart where the shooting took place will reopen its doors on November 14. The store will not hold a celebration so much as a memorial for the victims. 

“This will not be a celebratory atmosphere or environment,” Todd Peterson, vice president of Walmart and regional general manager, told KERA news. “We’ll just simply open the doors.”

Peterson also unveiled a mockup of a permanent tribute sculpture that will be on the south side of the parking lot of the store. 

“The focal point…will be a grand candela,” Peterson said. “Twenty-two individual perforated aluminum arcs, grouped together into one, single 30-foot candela, symbolizing unity and emanating light into the sky.”

Family members and survivors of the shooting will be able to view the memorial privately before the public. The Cielo Vista Walmart has not opened its doors since the shooting on August 3. While they may not exactly be Dia de Muertos ofrendas community members have already created a makeshift memorial to the victims. 

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