Juárez ready for Día de Muertos

Family members visit a grave in Juárez during the weekend. About 11,000 people went to the municipal cemeteries to clean and decorate loved ones' graves or to pay their respects in advance of the two-day Día de Muertos observance. (Photo courtesy the city of Juárez)

Thousands expected in tributes to departed loved ones

Mike Scanlon

A cap of the Juárez city Transit Police adorns an alter at Municipal Traffic Department's office. Employees paid tribute to 27 transit police officers who died in the last year and to all transit officers who have died since 2005. (Photo courtesy the city of Juárez)

Rio Grande Digital

Officials of Ciudad Juárez said Monday they are well prepared for the annual Día de Muertos — Day of the Dead — observances at cemeteries across the city on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Crowds estimated at more than 11,000 people went to various cemeteries on Saturday and Sunday to clean and decorate the graves of departed loved ones or to pay their respects early, according to a city news release.

Día de Muertos — one of Mexico’s most beloved and joyous holidays — is a time when relatives visit cemeteries, often taking objects that remind them of their dead relatives, such as toys for children’s graves, liquor or cigarettes for some adults or other things their loved ones enjoyed in life. Families often spread out blankets next to graves and have picnic lunches of the dead person’s favorite foods. Some people hire musicians to perform their loved one’s favorite music. The idea is to make the dead person present again — in memory, at least — with the family.

A woman visits a grave in a Juárez cemetery during the weekend. (Photo courtesy the city of Juárez)

Many Mexican homes have altars set up with photographs and other objects to invoke their memories.

Depictions of skulls and skeletons are a major part of the imagery.

Government offices and many businesses will be closed for the two-day observance.

The city of Juárez is providing a wide range of services, including security, information, free shuttles and special transportation for people with disabilities. Shuttles will run to the Panteón San Rafael cemetery from la Plaza de Zaragoza and el Monumento a Benito Juárez beginning at 7 a.m. Private vehicles are not allowed in the cemeteries, so the city will provide transportation from the cemetery gates to the graves.

Catholic priests and other clergy will be available in the cemeteries, and special masses are scheduled, the city said.

In other Día de Muertos news releases, the city said:

    • The city issued 227 vendor permits as of Monday and expected the number to reach about 350, according to a news release. Permits — at a cost of 545 pesos, or about US $42 — will be issued during the two-day holiday at 14 municipal cemeteries. Permits allow vendors to be present in cemeteries, selling things like flowers or playing music for money. The city will have about 40 agents in the cemeteries to issue permits and enforce the requirement.
    •  City police officers and administrative employees of the city Police Department followed the Día de Muertos tradition of setting up altars to remember police officers who were killed in the line of duty. The altars were decorated with the traditional marigold flowers, candles, pan de muertos, sugar skulls, water, sawdust, each officer’s favorite food and police uniforms, the city said. There were more than 20 portraits of officers who lost their lives under different circumstances, including the popular police Commander Víctor Nazario Moreno Ramírez, who survived an attack in front of a police station only to be gunned down later in his car.
    •  The Municipal Traffic Department also built altars for transit officers who died in the line of duty or from natural causes, the city said. With candles, fruit, bread and cigarettes the altars served as tributes to 27 agents who died in the last year. Also installed was a tribute to transit officers who have died since 2005 with a list of their names and a photograph of each in uniform. Members of the office staff commented that what they remembered most about their colleagues was their friendship and willingness to help.

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