On one of the hottest days in Arizona history, eighteen women, men and children braved the scorching desert near Cochise Stronghold of the Dragoon Mountains to remember and honor ANDRES RAMIREZ ORTIZ, age 35 and his hurting family. We also remembered all humanitarian aid organizations who, because of their commitment to put an end to migrant deaths, tirelessly carry water and food daily into our brutal desert.
Although we were small in number, we gathered to remember our friend, ANA MARIA VANEGAS VAZQUEZ, age 34, whose remains were found in 2015. This was the first time we placed a cross in an oak forest where the silence and the shade was a beautiful gift as we prayed and recalled the sad journey of Ana Maria.
A small but committed group, with hearts broken open by the pain of the passing of ELEAZAR CIFUENTES DIAZ, age 40, traveled a long distance to the northern section of the Whetstone Mountains, near Sierra Vista. We traveled this distance looking for the location where Eleazar’s remains were discovered, just a mere 6 months ago after four or more days of walking through the Sonoran desert. We prayed that he would be at peace and his family, who miss him so greatly, would have some semblance of consolation at his loss.
Today, on Good Friday, we went out to the desert of Douglas, AZ to recall the death of NORA HUERTAS HERNANDEZ, age 19, who collapsed one mile after crossing the US/MX border. Nora was found near a Douglas neighborhood, where neighbors called 911 to respond to her dire need. She was taken to St. Mary’s hospital in Tucson where she did not survive the trauma her body had suffered from the extreme heat of an Arizona July.
Just as Jesus, also a migrant on this earth, suffered death to bring full life to us all, Nora suffered death because of her deep desire to bring a fuller life to her family.
In our group we were blessed with the presence of 5 young people serving the vulnerable population of Tucson and with three young children and their caregiver who drove over from Bisbee to share in our prayer for Nora and her family.
Take a moment to read and reflect on this poem that Sister Pat shared with us today:
Today our journey to remember JOSE JIMENEZ LUCAS was short, just a few miles outside of Douglas in the Perilla Mountains. Jose did not walk very far from the border wall before he was overcome by the August Arizona heat and the numerous prickly cactus that covers this desert mountain. May he be enjoying full life and may his family feel the peace of the love of God in their loss.
Joining us in prayer today were two friends from Canada, a country that generously welcomes migrants and refugees as they journey to safety and a more whole life, and three friends from Arizona, Montana and Virginia. Their prayers and presence were deeply appreciated.
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:
I AM NOT ALONE
Do not think I have gone for good:
I am sudden winds through a wood;
rustling leaves is my delight:
believe in me and all is right.
Think of me at sunrise:
I am the laughter in your eyes;
Think of me as the sun goes down:
call my name; my spirit’s around.
Look to the western stars that shine:
one of those there will be mine.
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.