Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebratory yet somber time of year. During the first two days of November, families and communities come together to remember, honor, and celebrate those lives who are no longer with us, in their physical form, on earth. You’ll often find oferendas with pictures of those being remembered -- altars full of the foods, drinks, and items the departed once enjoyed in life. On Dia de los Muertos, spirits make the long journey home, back to those who celebrate their memory, and together they celebrate. Celebrate life, death, the memory of our ancestors, and honor the journey.
This year however, the holiday is marked with more somberness than celebration. For those of us who are lucky, we’ve endured a precious year -- but sadly, so many have not been as fortunate. Politicization of our health, systemic and overt racism, and state-sanctioned violence have taken so many lives.
This year, over 231,000 people in the United States have lost their battle with COVID-19 -- 17,667 people in California. (1) At least 994 people have lost their lives at the hands of police. (2) And 33 transgender or gender non-conforming people have had their lives ended for living their truth. (3) The harsh reality is, the amount of preventable deaths within the United States in 2020, is surely much, much higher.
Since its inception, the United States has always had an unacceptable amount of preventable deaths, due to hate and/or unjust and oppressive policies. But in many of our lifetimes, we have not experienced our government fail and lie to us to the degree in which it did this year. Regrettably, our leaders' blatant lies and negligence have taken so many lives. No race, age, gender, party preference, or socio-economic class was spared.
Dia de los Muertos is different this year. Families are being forced to navigate remembering loved ones who unexpectedly passed this year, alone -- during a pandemic, a recession, and a time of national unrest. Instead of coming together to grieve and heal as a country, we have become much more divided. While this year’s somberness is more than anyone could’ve prepared for, on Dia de los Muertos we celebrate, remember, and honor those we have lost this year -- but we can’t and won’t stop after November 2. Instead, we must honor the memory of those who died from injustice by standing firm in our commitment to equity and justice. With our loved ones’ legacies and memories powering our courage going forward, we can and will reach a future where no leader has the authority to politicize our health, where hate and state-sanctioned violence is eradicated.
Today, we stand at the polls and virtually gather for a moment of silence in solidarity with those families who are celebrating the memories of lives lost in 2020.
Lives that once had a favorite food, movie, joke.
Lives that in 2020 became a headline, a statistic.
Deaths that deserve justice.
When you cast your ballot in the 2020 Election, vote in honor of those who are no longer with us and do not have a voice in this election. Do your part in holding electeds accountable, because incompetent and negligent leadership must have consequences. We the people deserve leaders, who value life and science, who can lead our country into recovery. Only then we will be able to heal, rebuild, and move forward with compassion and inclusivity as our foundation.
With Courage -- powered by the memory of our ancestors -- change is not only possible, it's inevitable.