Today a small group of faithful participants journeyed out to the Whetstone Mountains to pray and remember JUAN BAUTISTA CAMACHO PEREZ, age 29, whose remains were found three years ago in the desert as he walked the path to fulfilling his dream for a better life for himself and his family. May God grant him eternal peace and his family deep consolation. This poem was shared:
Life And Death Are One
Life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity…
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and melt it into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb,
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. – Kahlil Gibran
Today we remembered a 31 year old man, GABRIEL SANCHEZ VELASQUEZ, who was shot and killed by a border patrol agent on January 14, 2014. Gabriel left behind two children and a wife who miss him deeply. May he rest in the peace of God and may his family have consolation in their grief for his loss.
We were accompanied by three Green Valley Samaritans who shared this poem:
Today we were blessed with the presence of Deacon Gabriel’s daughter, Teresa, who joined her father in leading our prayer remembrance for RUBEN GONZALEZ MIRANDA, age 49, who died on July 3, 2002.
Upon being discovered in the desert near Douglas, Ruben was medevacked to Tucson Medical Center where he died of a heart attack due to advanced hyperthermia. It is somehow comforting to know that the first responders did what they could to save Ruben’s life. May he rest in peace and may his family be consoled in their loss.
Today we walked the holy desert surrounding Cochise Stronghold to remember and pray for the spirit of RAMON CONTRERAS RAMOS, age 36, whose remains were found nearby on July 16, 2016. Ramon was a carpenter by trade who left a wife and two small children in Los Mochis, Sonora, MX, looking for a path that would offer a more dignified life for his family. His dream to offer a better education, a decent home and adequate health care to his loved ones sadly ended in our Sonoran desert. We recalled his courage and loving sacrifice for his family as he set out to cross an unforgiving and brutal landscape.
The Spiritual Community of Cochise Stronghold welcomed us graciously and led us in a beautiful and deeply moving ritual that called us to reconnect with the earth, our Mother, and with every living creature. We prayed for Ramon and his grieving family he left behind and for all migrants who risk their lives crossing our alluring yet unforgiving desert.
Please take a moment to listen to the NPR report on our memorial service for RAMON:
SONIA ALVARADO SORIANO, age 25, was remembered today near where she succumbed, struggling to fulfill her dream for a better life for herself and her family. We reflected on her courageous, yet tragic, journey through some of the highest and most brutal mountains in Arizona, determined to be the hope that her family longed for.
We thank our friends from Milwaukee and Tucson who accompanied us, and hope that they will return to their homes ready to speak the truth about the death that is happening in our desert.
Today we were blessed with the presence of six Green Valley and Tucson Samaritan women, who spend many hours a week saving the lives of migrants in the desert. These dedicated women carry gallons of water and cans of food into the harshest corners of our Sonoran desert and also spend time in a migrant shelter in Nogales, MX where they heal the wounds of disillusioned migrants and cook hardy meals to warm their burdened spirits.
We remembered LILIANA RAMIREZ GARCIA, who died when she was 23 years old, and her grieving family. May she rest in the peace of our loving God.
Today, students and teachers from the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest, New Jersey walked with us toward the San Pedro River to pray for and remember the spirit of MARIA ESTHER ALARCON CRUZ, whose remains were found a few miles north of the Mexican border, on October 8, 2007. She was 37 years old when she left her home and family trying to fulfill her dream of offering a full and meaningful life to her children and grandchildren. As a group we sang, in full voices, that “All are Welcome, All are Welcome, All are Welcome, in this place”.
We returned to the massive Huachuca Mountains today to honor the life of MARTA YOLANDA PIÑEDA GONZALEZ, who lost her life in 2007 at the age of 35. May her spirit rest in the peace of the One who also suffered and died as a migrant in our world.
Today we remembered in prayer ROGELIO NIEVES BACA, age 46, who was found deceased in the San Pedro River, a few miles from the Mexican border. The San Pedro has been a migratory path for animals and travelers for millennia. In this area there is constant water in the river, so it is believed that Rogelio succumbed to the cold and wet where he ended his journey beneath the cottonwoods.
Six students from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point accompanied us on our pilgrimage of remembrance.
This prayer reflection called “La Ruta de Mujeres” by Reverend Delle McCormick was read during the ceremony: la-ruta-de-mujeres
Why does a 16 year old girl die in our desert? Was Ofelia trying to be reunited with her parents? Was she coming to the US to make money to send home to her family? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that her death was unnecessary and unjust and probably very painful.
Today we cried for this young girl whose dreams died with her in the desert.