Dia de Muertos altar tours DC, honoring migrant dead
A Día de los Muertos altar mounted on a parade float made its way through Washington, D.C., on Election Day, providing a rolling reminder of the children who’ve died trying to make it into the United States, or in custody of U.S. immigration authorities.
The float will feature an altar with the images of minors who’ve died as prospective U.S. immigrants, following in the tradition of Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that celebrates the dead.
The altar was produced by Activate Labs, an advocacy group that uses design and artistic collaborations to support causes, in collaboration with the Spanish Speakers Small Group at the District Church, a group of Hispanic church parishioners.
The Día de los Muertos installation is also part of Activate Labs’s Shine on the Vote campaign, which advocates “for a free, fair and transparent electoral process, but also a nonviolent one,” said Monica Curca, founder of Activate Labs.
According to Curca, the float’s operators will call out the names of children who have died at the border and in the custody of U.S. authorities, as well as the names of 545 children who were separated from their parents by the Trump administration, and whose parents have so far not been found.
Curca said the float’s goal is not to support or oppose either presidential candidate, but to “build peace.”
“We have the ability to build peace no matter who wins, to shine a light and be the visual component of the things we should be focused on,” said Curca.
“We protested Obama’s deportation policies. I’m against anybody that treats immigrants as less than human,” she added.
Curca, who as a young Romanian refugee was briefly separated from her family by U.S. immigration authorities, was also critical of President Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants and racial issues.
“The dehumanization of immigrants — I 100 percent stand against all of that. It doesn’t matter if it’s Trump or my best friend who does it,” she said.
The nonmotorized float will roll through Black Lives Matter Plaza on 16th Street and past the White House, carrying “calaveritas” or “little skulls” honoring the lives of the migrant children. Six migrant children died in U.S. custody between 2018 and 2019.
Día de los Muertos is traditionally observed by building an altar with objects that the deceased enjoyed in life, and with calaveritas that can include images or short poems about the dead.
The holiday is celebrated on Nov. 2, and there are many different traditions throughout Mexico and Central America, although the central Mexican customs are commonly celebrated by Hispanics in the United States.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.