Dia de los Muertos Provides Occasion to Honor Social Justice Leaders who have Passed Away

Dia de los Muertos is a strong tradition throughout Mexico and the southwest United States. To continue this tradition, every year at the LUPE offices we build altares to honor our loved ones who have passed and those who have fallen in the struggle for social justice. Chief among them is Don Cesar Chavez, UFW leader and founder of LUPE. Don Cesar died peacefully in 1993 after 31 years of organizing for farmworker rights. Also honored are Sister Gerrie Naughton, founder of ARISE, long time UFW leader Baltazar Saldaña, and civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Along with the many fallen compañeras and companeros in the struggle, we also honor our friends and family that have passed away. LUPE members are invited to bring pictures of their deceased loved ones to place on the altar along with items they owned or food and drink they enjoyed.

Building of the altar provides occasion to share our family’s Dia de los Muertos traditions. Reyna Porales, UFW and LUPE member of 17 years, says that for her family in Veracruz, Dia de los Muertos is like Thanksgiving in the US. All of her family comes together to eat and celebrate, honoring and giving thanks for their loved ones who have passed. “We make an altar in our house with food, soda, wine, cigarettes, everything that each deceased person likes,” she says. “According to tradition, they come and take the aroma and flavor of the food, the essence of the food. And the food is left without flavor.”

Maricela Martínez, immigration service provider from the San Juan office, also helped make the altar. Although in a new country, her family’s Dia de los Muertos tradition has continued. “We gather at the grave sites and bring food and flowers,” she says. “It is a chance for the whole family to get together… Even though we’re in a new country, the tradition continues the same.”

The altares will be on display until November 8th in San Juan and until the middle of November in the Alton and Mercedes offices.

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